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GUILT and SEXUALITY: The Piano Teacher

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

Free event: Book here

The Piano Teacher

Michael Haneke, France / Austria, 2001, 131 minutes

Birkbeck Cinema

Friday 9 June 6.00 pm

For a classical musician dedicating oneself to perfect beauty can be a punishing discipline. But for Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) it coexists with masochism. She's an intimidating teacher at the Conservatoire, but at home, where she lives with her mother, she's scolded and struck. When she seeks love elsewhere she expects more of the same. Indeed, she demands it.

She imposes a dominant and abusive role on her student and lover Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel). She uses her power to reduce herself to powerlessness, and abuses her lover in order to have herself abused.

The film includes some hideous images which Haneke demands that we contemplate. Yet its dominant image is arguably of Huppert, eyes dark and cold, head tilted up and aloof, alive only to the exalted demands of music and the perverse relief of self-abasement and self-harm. Sexuality here has little to do with cultivating a relationship. It figures largely as a means of enacting and maintaining a closed circle of private obsessions. Their preservation may be oppressive, but anything or anyone that challenges them is fought off as an existential threat.

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BIMI is funded by four schools at Birkbeck: the School of Arts, the School of Law, the School of Social Sciences,
History and Philosophy, and the School of Science. The University of Pittsburgh is also a partner and co-funder.

BiGS provides a forum for innovative interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange in gender and sexuality studies. It brings together scholars working in the arts and humanities and the social sciences and encourages dialogue with practitioners in the creative industries as well as with non-academic constituencies.

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