Music professor Erika Kohut (Huppert) is an exacting instructor at the Vienna Conservatory, where she teaches piano with a somewhat austere manner. But in her private life, Erika is more of a maverick, with a secret but insatiable taste for porn shops and voyeurism. When a handsome, confident new star student (Magimel) enters her circle, they drift into an affair, but their erotic entanglement is anything but conventional.
Haneke's unexpected art-house hit perfectly reflects the Austrian director's flair for outré material: in this case, the sadomasochistic proclivities of a frigid, upper-bourgeois Frenchwoman whose life of discipline obscures her broken sense of self. Huppert has always had a knack for playing unusually brainy women harboring erotic perversions, but here she is at her very best inhabiting a deviant character created by novelist Elfriede Jelinek. "The Piano Teacher" is disturbing, to be sure, but offers a serious, intelligent, and artful look at sexual repression Freud would be proud of.