As I sat through this film, I couldn’t help but think of it as the Female counterpart to Bad Lieutenant. Both films are about characters in positions of power on the brink of insanity, addiction issues, and self-destructive behavior. Although these two share similarities, it is their differences that make them unique…
Bad Lieutenant is a very grimy film shot on location in the streets, motels, and crack houses of New York City. The ambient sounds of cursing and car horns can be heard throughout the film.
The Piano Teacher is very clean film shot primarily in recital halls, middle class apartments, and hockey rinks. As the title suggest, the sounds of the grand piano is prevalent throughout the film.
One of the things that stands out most about this film is the main character Erika. Erika partakes in the beautiful and intellectual art form of concert piano but is secretly trapped by her own primal sexual fetishes. Throughout the film she explores the depths of her sexuality on the solo tip with various excursions into the worlds of voyeurism, sadomasochism, and pornography. Unknowingly of her sexual journeys, a young and talented prodigy, Walter, begins to hit on her. This film explores the limits of love and sanity as her perversions come to light.
Director Michael Heneke makes the wise decision of selecting a female as the lead. This film would not be shocking if the lead was a male. Pornography is usually made for men and it is somewhat accepted in society that men watch pornography. On the other hand, it is taboo for a female to enjoy pornography. In The Piano Teacher, this issue is explored in the scene where a couple men stare at Erika as she waits to enter a viewing booth in a Pornography Shop. These men stare at her as if she walks into a boys only club and she fights back with her own awkward but defensive expressions until the booth becomes free.
I honestly had hesitations about this film when a friend recommended it to me. After watching it, I can say that the character and message of this story makes me want to add this to my personal collection.