In Germany, the elder Frau Traude Krueger gives piano classes in a prison for a few prisoners and the security guard Mütze. When she sees the rebel and aggressive Jenny Von Loeben playing piano, she immediately identifies her potential and offers to teach her for a competition. Frau Krueger finds that Jenny was a prodigy when she was a child; abused when she was a teenager and has been imprisoned for murdering and decapitating a man. Along the period they work together preparing for the exhibition, Frau Krueger discloses secrets about her love in World War II while the self-destructive Jenny has four minutes of glory and recognition of her talent.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When student Jenny is at Frau Krüger's (b. 1926) home, a picture of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and one of Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) can be seen on the wall above the piano. Earlier, we see a picture of Furtwängler when the young Krüger is being coerced by a member of the Nazi party to rebuke her friendship with her then student (circa 1944). See more »
In several sequences where we see Jenny playing the piano, the notes we hear do not correspond to the keys she plays. See more »
The women's prison in Germany in which this film is set is a place of bullying and beatings, of despair and suicide, of boredom, football and ping-pong. In these grim surroundings an elderly visiting piano teacher collides with a wild inmate serving a life sentence for murder and harbouring an extraordinary talent for piano. Traude and Jenny are polarised personalities from the moment that they meet; again and again their differences boil up and threaten Jenny's entry into a young pianist competition. Their path is troubled further by the hostility of prison inmates and staff alike, including Kowalski, an emasculated prison guard played by Richy Muller, and the reappearance of Jenny's father, which dredges up terrible memories.
Through confrontation of demons past and present, both Traude and Jenny begin to delve into the other's background, revealing the reality beyond the ossified teacher and the abominable student. Traude's history is illuminated through flashbacks to the Second World War, but although these scenes are well choreographed and filmed, they fit awkwardly at best into the main narrative and encroach upon a sterling performance by Monica Bleidbtrau. The details of Jenny's life are left scarce and tantalising, which plays to Hannah Herzsprung's performance, by turns angry and beautiful, scary and charming.
This film is graced by some excellent pieces of classical music, at least from my standpoint as a layperson in the classical music world. The musical and dramatic highlight comes at the film's climax the Four Minutes of the film's title, which features a stunningly original composition, encapsulating the turmoil of the previous two hours and leaving a vivid and lasting impression.
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