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2001 movie directed by Michael Haneke

Main cast:
Isabelle Huppert - Erika Kohut
Annie Girardot - The Mother
Benoît Magimel - Walter Klemmer

Erika Kohut is a piano player and teacher who works at the Vienna conservatory. Although in her 40s, she lives with her mother - they even share a bedroom. They also appear to have a weird terror balance going, and the mother gets very upset should Erika stay out late without notice or just take her time getting home from work.

We discover, soon enough, that Erika has some very unhealthy habits regarding sex, one of them being self-mutilation - she cuts herself using a razor blade. She also goes to see porn movies, sniffing the tissue paper used by former guests.

Already repulsed? Do not see this movie, then. Several of the scenes are strongly uncomfortable, the worst of them being a bathroom scene with the young Walter Klemmer, who becomes her pupil and admirer. Here is one sex scene in a movie that is not likely to turn any healthy audience member on - just by being so incredibly awkward and disturbing. (Note that despite the sexual tension and talk, there is very little actual naked skin to be seen during the movie, although we do catch a glimpse of one of the movies Erika sees in the porn shop.)

Erika has all these dreams and fantasies and slightly deranged ideas bottled up inside, and once Walter helps her take off that lid, it is all downwards. How far are we really from the borders of madness? In what ways do we mutilate and silence ourselves and what does it do to us? Can we handle it when given the opportunity to make our innermost fantasies reality, are they really what we wish for?

The movie includes some truly amazing performances by the main cast. Magimel and Huppert both took home best actor/actress awards for the movie at the Cannes Film Festival, and Haneke won the Grand Prize of the jury. For her brilliant portrayal of the mother, Annie Girardot won a César for best supporting actress. Huppert had to take up piano playing for the first time since childhood to prepare for the movie, in which the music - especially that of Schubert - plays a very significant part. The movie was adapted from a novel by Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek.

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