256 user 161 critic

The Piano Teacher (2001)

La pianiste (original title)
1:37 | Trailer
A young man romantically pursues his masochistic piano teacher.


Michael Haneke


Michael Haneke, Elfriede Jelinek (novel)
2,817 ( 105)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 18 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Isabelle Huppert ... Erika Kohut
Annie Girardot ... The Mother
Benoît Magimel ... Walter Klemmer
Susanne Lothar ... Mrs. Schober
Udo Samel ... Dr. George Blonskij
Anna Sigalevitch ... Anna Schober
Cornelia Köndgen ... Mme Gerda Blonskij
Thomas Weinhappel Thomas Weinhappel ... Baritone
Georg Friedrich ... Man in drive-in
Philipp Heiss Philipp Heiss ... Naprawnik
William Mang William Mang ... Teacher
Rudolf Melichar Rudolf Melichar ... Director
Michael Schottenberg Michael Schottenberg ... Teacher
Gabriele Schuchter Gabriele Schuchter ... Margot
Dieter Berner ... Singing teacher


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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Perversion at its wicked best!



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for aberrant sexuality including violence, and for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


In the last scene, when Erika wants to talk to Walter in the Conservatoire foyer, the girl he can be seen with is a not-yet-famous Eva Green See more »


[first lines]
The Mother: Good evening, child.
Erika Kohut: Evening, mama.
The Mother: [sarcastically] Home already? I'm so happy.
Erika Kohut: I'm going.
The Mother: Not so fast.
Erika Kohut: Please. Leave me be. I'm tired.
The Mother: I can quite believe it. Your last pupil left 3 hours ago. Might I know where you've been all this time?
Erika Kohut: [trying to go to her room] Please.
The Mother: No, you don't. Not until you tell me.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The R-rated edition from Kino makes a number of changes and omissions, removing the shots of the hardcore peep booth footage viewed by Huppert's character in the mall, as well as optically pixellating pornographic images on magazine covers in the sex shop. In addition, this version completely removes the following two sequences: -Huppert's cutting sequence in the bathtub -Magimel taking Huppert to the ground and humping her at the hockey rink. In the latter case, the film awkwardly fades out and in again in quick succession, to elide the missing footage. See more »


Featured in Indie Sex: Extremes (2007) See more »


Piano Sonata in A Major, D.959
Franz Schubert
See more »

User Reviews

Schubert, indeed--the mind and libido over 88 keys
7 October 2012 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Piano Teacher (2001)

This is a difficult movie. It's difficult to watch at times, if you take it seriously. But I think it was difficult to film, to write, to act.

The premise is subtle even if it sounds sensational--show the inner mind and inner life of a brilliant woman who is mentally ill. She has compulsive issues, I think, and sexual repression that has led her to masochistic and finally sadistic extremes. She is admirable in some external way for her self-control which reads, to an outsider, as cold precision, the kind needed to be an extraordinary classical pianist.

But the movie takes us inside her life, first to the unhealthy relationship with her mother, then the oddly stern and indifferent role she takes with her advanced students. Finally there is a young man who sees only her ability, and her external beauty. (This woman, Erika, is played by the incomparable Isabelle Huppert.) He is a pianist of unusual talent, but he wants not to concertize, but to live life. He plays hockey. He has friends. He smiles warmly. He is, in short, a healthy normal and rather handsome young man.

And he falls for Erika. This is where the movie gets weirder and weirder, but also more challenging. They play an intense game of sexual chicken, at first, and lots of head games. He knows she's superior to him in some way--older, more severe---but he has no idea about her slanted view of life and of sex. He wants her. He becomes a pupil of hers just for that reason. She pretends not to care, or to rebuff him (in part this isn't pretense because she's afraid). Finally a couple of serious and demented confrontations occur.

And things unravel in a very interesting way. Some people will find it simply sick and unwatchable. It also happens very slowly--if the film has an obvious flaw, it's the pace. It's in love with itself far too much. But if you get into that flow, and can take the pain that will rise up, then you will at least be greatly affected. That's more than most movies can say.

It's all quite in ernest. I don't think it's a bit campy or playing games with the viewer. It's really trying to get at this woman's psyche--and the young man's, since he gets in deeper than he intended. It's filmed with terrific planning and visual panache. And it makes some kind of deranged sense, too. In fact, there are probably more people in these kinds of situations than I'll even know, and to them I say give this a careful look.

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Austria | France | Germany


French | German

Release Date:

5 September 2001 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Piano Teacher See more »

Filming Locations:

Austria See more »


Box Office


ATS70,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$29,671, 31 March 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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