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TIFF 2019 Review: The Audition

Image Courtesy of TIFF

Perfection is the only option for Anna Bronsky (Nina Hoss).  A violin teacher at an arts high school, she goes against the opinion of her colleagues in order to fight for the entry of a boy, Alexander (Ilja Monti) whom she feels has potential.  She spends most of her waking hours trying to prepare him for his mid-term examination, forcing him over and over to perfect his craft – whether this is for Alexander or for Anna is up for debate.

At home, Anna is becoming increasingly distant as she spends more and more time at school and with her paramour Christian (Jens Albunis), instead of her violin making husband, Philippe (Simon Abkarian) and her son, Jonas (Serafin Mishiev).   Jonas is also a student at the same school, and seemingly suffers under the pressure Anna places upon him.  “I want a dog,” Jonas one day tells his mother.  Her reply says it all –  “Your violin is your dog.”  When Alexander shows up at Anna’s home for extra practice and tutorage a perceptible dynamic shift occurs that sees the family get pulled further apart, culminating in tragic circumstances.

The Audition is a portrait piece, following Anna in every scene and concentrating on her self doubt and insecurities.  There is a telling moment where, upon meeting Philippe for dinner, she cannot make up her mind what she wants to eat, nor even where she wants to sit.  So deep rooted is her uncertainty that simple decisions are difficult.  She is a teacher, but also a concert violinist, however she carries her instrument around more than she plays it.  As she explains, “When I’m playing, all I’m thinking of is how I will fail.”

As Anna, Nina Hoss (also at the festival with Pelican Blood) is well able to embody the intensity this character requires.  While this protagonist is not always likeable, Hoss makes her humanity shine through regardless of her actions.  Anna’s profound fear of failure is often palpable through Hoss’ depiction.

This second feature film from director Ina Weisse is also her second collaboration with writer Daphne Charizani (their first was The Architect).  It is not a surprise that there is a personal feel to the film, with both women having played strings and been involved in orchestra themselves.  However, for a character study, there are some gaps in Anna’s story that may have been better developed.  These may have been meant to be subtle, however some extra background into Anna’s life would have perhaps allowed for more empathy here or shown more of her journey, as it often feels she is just treading water.

The Audition as a piece exploring expectations – those we have on ourselves, and of others, works well.  Nina Hoss is a joy to watch and helps bring this film to, sometimes dishearteningly relatable, life.

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