Musician suffering blues in The Audition

Nina Hoss plays a fragile teacher in enthralling character portrait

Friday, 1st April — By Dan Carrier

The Audition_Nina Hoss_credit Judith Kaufmann-Lupa Film

Nina Hoss as German piano teacher Anna in The Audition. Image: Judith Kaufmann/Lupa Film

Directed by Ina Weisse
Certificate: 12a

A LIFE riddled with doubt, caused by looking for hidden criticisms among praise, is at the centre of this intriguing character portrait.

The Audition tells the story of Anna (Nina Hoss), a German violin teacher who becomes determined to coax a world-class performance from one of her charges.

Allied to this is her own quest for perfection, and a deep-rooted inferiority complex that makes her a miserable, hard task master.

For her, creating music must be a constant struggle to reach a point of flawlessness. But this quest means she is never happy, and it seeps from her professional to her personal life.

We are introduced to Alexander (Ilja Monti) a young teen who is auditioning for a place at a prestigious Berlin music school. Two of the tutors say he doesn’t cut it, while Anna disagrees and says she will coach him.

It becomes a quest, as she pours her own idiosyncrasies into his development.

Alexander lacks confidence and it means he is unsure when it comes to his technique: Anna finds this infuriating – and her response is a sign of how off-key her emotions really are.

Watching her student struggle to find the way to bring out his talent rings subconscious bells for Anna. We learn she has let her own performances fall away as teaching and her talented 10-year-old son, who loathes her, has diluted her confidence to the point where she can no longer play in public.

Thrown into the mix is the gentle and loving husband Phillipe (Simon Abkaraian) who can read the signs his wife sends out and tries to negotiate his way through a minefield of her creation. He does all he can to soothe things between Anna and their talented son Jonas, who has an itchy relationship with her.

Nina Hoss is perfectly cast for the role. Her stare reveals a thousand emotions and she brings a mixture of fragility as well as determination to her role.

She captures the anger of the bully – poor Jonas is wary of which way she will turn, while equally poor Alexander has a unfathomably hard task master.

Weisse and her producer Daphne Charizani are both long-standing musicians with orchestral experience and it is clear they understand – and can translate – that peculiar thirst for getting things just so. Malcolm Gladwell called it the 10,000 hours idea – that continuous repetition will mean any talent hidden away is buffed to the shiniest degree imaginable.

Finally, a film about classical music obviously has a lovely sound track. Never before has the idea of listening to someone practise Bach held such an attraction. It is enthralling, like the characters Weisse has carefully created and masterly conducted.

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