Michael Haneke on the Art of the Erotic Long Take

The long take is a favorite tool of many great contemporary filmmakers, but few have wielded it with such unnervingly provocative results as Michael Haneke. In his 2001 adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek’s controversial novel The Piano Teacher, the Austrian director brought his masterful use of cinematic duration to the story of a deeply repressed piano professor named Erika (Isabelle Huppert), who lives with her emotionally dependent mother and forms a sadomasochistic relationship with her talented young student Walter. Working with cinematographer Christian Berger, Haneke created long passages in which the merciless, unflinching gaze of the camera heightens the intense abjection and alienation on-screen. For our recently released edition of the film, Haneke talked with us about his methods of storytelling, touching on the ways in which long takes foster narrative suspense and make it easier for actors to develop the emotional arc of a scene. In the below clip, he examines the beginning of a seven-minute confrontation between Erika and Walter, and explains how he strived to capture this sexually charged moment with the boldness of such transgressively erotic masterpieces as Salò and In the Realm of the Senses.

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