Run time: 125 mins
Stiff-backed and unsmiling, Isabelle Huppert gives one of her greatest screen performances as Erika Kohut, a haughty, sexually repressed priestess of high culture in Michael Haneke’s powerfully disquieting film.
Based on the Nobel Prize winning novel, Erika (Huppert) is a perfectionistic music teacher at the Vienna Conservatory. A child prodigy who failed to become a concert pianist, the middle-aged teacher is cooped up at home with her mother, who she has a violent love-hate relationship with. The pair not only share a small apartment in Vienna together, but a bed, heightening their codependency. When Erika’s not teaching at the prestigious conservatory, she escapes from her home to spy on couples at drive-in cinemas and harms herself when she is alone.
The arrival of a new student, Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel), unravels her aloof facade when he admits his attraction to her, presenting an opportunity to enact her dark fantasies. Michael Haneke’s psychodrama is a post-Freudian meditation on sex, repression and power; exploring new territory in sexual politics. Its climactic scene is just as shocking as it was twenty years ago. (Jack Whiting)