Opening 1 Feb 2007
This German film tells the story of Traude Krüger who gives piano lessons to wayward girls while they do time in the penitentiary. Traude (Monica Bleibtreu) is a masculine-looking, old maid with a will of iron who has been teaching music for 60 years. She meets her match against Jenny (excellent: Hannah Herzsprung) who is serving time for murder. There is a virtual battle of wills as Jenny resists, although she is wonderfully talented. Why doesn’t the teacher give up the struggle to prepare Jenny for an upcoming piano competition? Through flashbacks we learn that Traude was once a beautiful young woman whose lesbian girl friend died under the hands of the Nazis; she suffers from feelings of guilt for having failed her.
This is a successful second film by German Chris Kraus which won prizes in Shanghai and standing ovations in Toronto and New York. I loved the ending in which Jenny plays her own version of a classical tune – a version much like our own Jennifer Hymer would play it, using parts of the piano that normally aren’t incorporated into a piano concert. My German colleagues regretted that it was necessary to mention World War II and to blame everything on the Nazis, when Traude’s problems could just have well have originated from any other life trauma. I agree. The ending is tense as Traude convinces the police to allow Jenny her four minutes of fame on the concert hall stage. (Becky Tan)