Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) is a failed concert pianist who teaches at the Viennese Music Conservatory, and still shares a bedroom with her tyrannical mother in their shabby apartment. Contemptuous of the pupils she's forced to teach, Erika harbours dark secrets: she consumes hardcore pornography, spies on lovers at drive-ins and even performs acts of genital self-mutilation. A student (Benoît Magimel) seeks to seduce her, but is shocked when she presents him with her sexual demands...
A lacerating examination of emotional repression and erotic obsession, The Piano Teacher is directed with unflinching rigour. Michael Haneke (Funny Games) frames his figuratively imprisoned characters with claustrophobic precision, and seamlessly incorporates extracts of classical music into the story.
There's no redemption here - -just a slow, gruelling descent into self-annihilation, with the echoes of fascism in the sado-masochistic relationship adding an unexpected political dimension. Not a film to embrace, but Huppert delivers a brave, compelling performance.