Nina Hoss is a violin teacher obsessed with success in Ina Weisse’s taut psychological drama.
Director Ina Weisse (The Architect) returns to our screens with a psychological drama set in the all-consuming world of classical music. German actress Nina Hoss, best known for her roles in Christian Petzold’s Barabara and Phoenix, provides a complex and compelling performance as Anna, a violin teacher and mother struggling to separate her own tumultuous private life from the potential of a musical prodigy named Alexander (Ilja Monti). She takes him under her wing in the hopes of winning him a spot at Berlin’s most prestigious conservatoire.
The film explores the psychological parameters of excellence and the self-destructive nature that is perpetuated by that heightened state of mind. Those who have dipped their toes into any competitive realm will be well aware that it is no place for the faint-hearted. The film opens in a vast, hostile hall, where a group of five adults sit and pick apart the musical talent of several pre-pubescent tweens. It preempts the stern, merciless atmosphere that dominates the remainder of the drama.
Anna, the only child of her brutal and distant father (and who we later discover lost her mother at the age of 12) has a fundamental fear of failure. She repels it; crumbles in its presence. This would appear to be the reason she chose a life further from the spotlight, teaching the violin rather than pursuing a musical career of her own. Married to a French instrument-maker (Simon Abkarian), she pushes her own son Jonas (Serafin Mishiev) to pursue the violin, tarnishing their relationship further as he clearly has near to no interest in the instrument. When Jonas sees Alexander enter the life (and home) of his mother, he is threatened when faced with the physical manifestation of everything he feels his mother wishes he was.
The film delves deeper than exploring the intricate relationship between student and teacher. It humanises the teacher figure and the insecurities and baggage that inevitably escort them into the classroom. Anna’s departure from the stereotypical family unit she initially adheres to hints at the deeply neurotic nature of her character, as does her seemingly unavailing, half-fledged affair with her cellist co-worker (Jens Albinus). Hoss fortuitously channels this with her customary intensity and elan.
Despite the evasive final scenes which avoid resolving or contextualising Hoss’s fragile mental state, Weisse delivers a captivating psychological exploration of the all-encompassing plights of achieving excellence.
Published 1 Apr 2022
Tags: Nina Hoss
Nina Hoss is impeccable as a violin teacher on the verge.