The Audition sounds familiar. A music teacher takes on a promising new student. Though others doubt him, she knows she can bring the best out of him. She is hard, but the best teachers normally are. In the end, she will ensure her student succeeds. Except Director Ina Weisse’s film is not what some audiences may expect. Instead of a film about a budding friendship, it is about a life unraveling. It is a painful character study. The movie has its moments, but is an overall uneven piece.
There is a strong story in The Audition. Anna Bronsky (Nina Hoss) is clearly at a crossroads in her life. Her son does not share her interests. Her marriage is in trouble. Alexander, the talented student she has taken on may not be as skilled as she initially thought. Anna needs to do what she can to make a change in her life. Yet, the story never quite hits all the right notes.
At its core, this is a movie about artistic obsession. Despite, the strain it is causing her personal life, Anna is obsessed with making Alexander realize his potential. Eventually, it becomes more about her realizing her wasted opportunities. It is the natural evolution of their troubled relationship. It is through the two that the audience is also able to see what may be troubling the music teacher.
The issue with The Audition is it never quite clues the audience in as to why Anna makes so many odd choices. There are hints she could have been a world class violinist, but there is no reason to believe that is true. (Of course, that may be part of her problem.) The odd ending does little to show any development in her character or explain anything about her. The movie touches on plenty of ideas but never fully develops any of them.
That being said, there is an early scene at a restaurant reinforces her indecisiveness. It is a series of subtle decisions that showcase what she is going through. The sequence is a nice touch that lets the audience get inside the head of the protagonist. Unfortunately, the plot lacks in these moments forcing the audience to theorize every step of the way.
Hoss is fantastic as the troubled Anna. The movie is a quiet one that relies on Anna’s furtive glances and body language. When the pace speeds up in the third act, Hoss is up to the task. She gives a stand out performance that is the highlight of the film. The direction also does a tremendous job of maximizing emotion. One of the reasons Hoss stands out is the excellent camera work. Weisse makes sure to linger on the star. This ensures each shot gets every bit of emotion.
Fiction is filled with tales of someone trying to fulfill their dreams through someone else. These tend to be character studies that resonate with the audience. They work so well since everyone watching can relate with them on some level. The Audition has all the elements, but does not bring them all together into a cohesive tale.