Writer Salman Rushdie has joined more than 200 leading authors in condemning Russia's controversial stance on gay rights. The Satanic Verses author accused Russian authorities of imposing a "chokehold" on free speech by banning the 'promotion' of homosexuality.
More than 200 other writers, including Nobel laureates Gunter Grass, Orhan Pamuk, Wole Soyinka, and Elfriede Jelinek, have signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin ahead of the Winter Olympics, which are due to launch in Sochi, Russia this week (ends09Feb14).
It states, "As writers and artists, we cannot stand quietly by as we watch our fellow writers and journalists pressed into silence or risking prosecution and often drastic punishment for the mere act of communicating their thoughts.
"A healthy democracy must hear the independent voices of all its citizens; the global community needs to hear, and be enriched by, the diversity of Russian opinion. We therefore urge the Russian authorities to repeal these laws that strangle free speech."
Rushdie tells British newspaper The Guardian, "The chokehold that the Russian Federation has placed on freedom of expression is deeply worrying and needs to be addressed in order to bring about a healthy democracy in Russia."
Erika is a gifted pianist in her 40s who teaches at a prestigious music school in Vienna. But her private life is far from gilded. She lives in a cramped apartment with her overbearing mother and secretly visits the local porn parlor to watch hard-core movies. She is also masochistically driven to inflict harm on her own body and to be a Peeping Tom at the local drive-in where she watches a couple making love in their car. After she reluctantly supports the acceptance of handsome young pianist Walter as a student at the conservatory they enter a twisted and abusive sadomasochistic relationship in spite of Walter's apparent genuine love for the older Erika. The piano teacher's pathology is so extreme that she surreptitiously puts cut glass into the coat pocket of another student who then ruins her playing hand when she thrusts it into the pocket. This disturbed and sadistic heroine's despicable and graphic behavior resonates way beyond the film's wonderful music and great performances bringing down what would otherwise be a quality movie.
Isabelle Huppert one of France's greatest and most prolific film actresses is extraordinary in what can only be described as an extraordinarily challenging role. She gives a terrific and convincing performance as does Benoit Magimel as the handsome young piano student who falls under her diabolic spell and into her sick and manipulative web of erotic shenanigans. An intense turn from French legend Annie Girardot as Huppert's controlling mother is also top-notch.
German director Michael Haneke does a fine and convincing job directing the peculiar goings-on but must also take the rap as having anointed himself the adapter of this strange novel by Elfriede Jelinek. Haneke directs his actors convincingly and intriguingly and his adaptation also convinces more thanks to the actors than to direction or the underlying material. Haneke's evocation of the world of classical music and training including a soundtrack rich in the music of such masters as Schubert Bach and Beethoven and shots of musicians performing these beloved works is effective especially as counterpoint to the far-from-lofty teacher who is an ironic cog in this sublime process.