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Jonathan Rhys Meyers,
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Pål Sverre Hagen,
Ellen Dorrit Petersen
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Erika Kohut is a pianist, teaching music. Schubert and Schumann are her forte, but she's not quite at concert level. She's approaching middle age, living with her mother who is domineering then submissive; Erika is a victim then combative. With her students she is severe. She visits a sex shop to watch DVDs; she walks a drive-in theater to stare at couples having sex. Walter is a self-assured student with some musical talent; he auditions for her class and is forthright in his attraction to her. She responds coldly then demands he let her lead. Next she changes the game with a letter, inviting him into her fantasies. How will he respond; how does sex have power over our other faculties? Written by
Erika (Isabelle Huppert) is a fortyish piano teacher with deeply repressed sexual feelings. She lives with her mother (Annie Girardot), a controlling, oppressive woman, and deals with her erotic longings through voyeurism, visits to sex shops and self mutilation. She still sleeps with her mother. The film largely takes place at the conservatory where she teaches and at the apartment she shares with her mother.
Huppert in an excellent on-disc interview says Erika longs to be loved but is frightened of seduction. She treats her students coldly but is drawn to one who is vain and handsome, and played by Benoit Magimel. The rest is the story of her creating and accepting a masochistic relationship with the young man that spirals down into her own psycho-sexual collapse.
This movie won't be everyone's choice for an evening with the kids. It's a serious, disturbing film for adults that looks grimly at repressed feelings and emotional self destruction. For the grownups, it might put you off sado-masochism for a few days. It's a first-rate film.
Isabelle Huppert is one of my favorite actors. Like Depardieu, she has no apparent screen vanity; she'll do what it takes for the role. She also has the rare ability to express deep, unsettling feelings with an absolute economy of expression. She is incredible in this film.
I'm happy to have the movie, but to tell you the truth I'm not sure how many more times I'll watch it.
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