Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) are films about women directed by men. Both films unorthodoxly chart women artists’ struggle with the discipline imposed on them by the arts and by their live-in mothers. By portraying mothers as their daughters’ oppressors, both films disturb the naïve “women = victims and men = perpetrators” binary. Simultaneously, they deploy audiovisual violence to exhibit the violence of society’s gender and sexuality policy norms and use gender-coded romance narratives to subvert the same gender codes from within this gender discourse. Using Judith Butler’s and Michael Foucault’s theories, we argue that Haneke and Aronofsky “do” feminism unconventionally by exposing the nexus of women’s complicity with omnipresent societal power structures that safeguard gender norms. These films showcase women concurrently as victim-products and complicit partisans of socially constructed gender ideology to emphasize that this ideology can be destabilized only when women “do” their gender and sexuality differently through acts of subversion.
Nexus of Complicity and Acts of Subversion in The Piano Teacher and Black Swan
Neha Arora and Stephan Resch
Strange Contracts: Elfriede Jelinek and Michael Haneke
This article explores the representation of sexuality and vision in Elfriede Jelinek's Die Klavierspielerin [The Piano Teacher] (1983) and Michael Haneke's La Pianiste (2001). In its focus on the relation between Mother and Erika, Die Klavierspielerin brings right to the fore the grounding of both sexuality and visuality in the ongoing ties between mother and child. Displacing that novel onto the screen, Haneke redoubles its focus on vision. It is in the convergence between the two that we can begin to explore what may be described as the maternal dimension of the various technologies of vision that have come to pervade the everyday experience of looking—their effect on our ways of understanding the relations between visuality and selfhood, visuality and mind.