PRINT November 2017



Michael Haneke, The Piano Teacher, 2001, 35 mm, color, sound, 130 minutes. Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) and Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel).

“FROM THE START, pianists have an uphill battle to become good musicians, because of the essentially mechanical nature of their instrument,” the critic Nicholas Spice once wrote of Glenn Gould. “Where string players, wind players and singers are obliged to involve their bodies and their breathing in their technique, pianists can sit at their keyboards like computer operators.” If the piano is a kind of machine, one could say that hands—famously fetishized by Michael Haneke’s cool gaze in The Piano Teacher—are the link by which the pianist yokes herself to the machine. Or, better, they’re the conduit through which the pianist transmogrifies into a mechanism. Hands are also contradictory and catalytic. Genderless as instruments of sex, they help facilitate the bluntest acts of violence and the subtlest acts of human love.

Hand fetishists are rarer than those who are obsessed

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