Director and Writer: Olivier Treiner
Starring: Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet, Daniele Lebrun, Gregory Gadebois
Overlooked piano protégé, to the confusion of his agent, assumes the role of a blind piano tuner after a public nervous collapse at the prestigious Bernstein Prize renders his identity invisible. Initially the power of his deception, as he expounds the loss of his creative self by mirroring his suffering in a physical loss of sight that people can grasp, allows him to see into the intimacies of his clientele and, consequently, he finds himself able to play again. But it is only when he witnesses something he shouldn’t, leaving Adrien truly blind to his fate, that his redemption takes place in Olivier Treiner’s moody French thriller.
Treiner’s gloomy visuals and delicate score intelligently explores some very relevant points on the ineptitudes of contemporary social politics to understand mental suffering, in this case particularly loss and identity, as something physical. In Treiner’s world, life gets lost in poor communication.
Silence, as much as the understated quality of the piano score, is a key element in the film’s allure; the dark tone and the presence of a building tension. It would not be an unfair comparison to say that the use of shadows, narrow corridors and refined use of sound are unavoidably Hitchcockian in the way that the pace of the tension feels natural and unforced.
The visuals and music are extremely sensory which works well with the film’s concept. For instance, the Bernstein Prize scene, a place that rewards musical expression, shines pompously golden in comparison to the rest of the film that is set in semi-darkness or pale light. The event proclaims itself as art and the piano tuning appears bland, yet the protagonist’s expressive talent is never seen because he is unable to perform under those circumstances/ lights. He resorts to developing his physical façade in his role as a piano tuner because in his words, “People are nicer, less suspicious. They give more.” His clients change in front of him and in one scene a woman even dances half naked around the room while he plays. He needs to be connected with people to express and yet his agent at dinner misinterprets the piano tuner’s motives as being voyeuristic or deviant.
The irony of the protagonist’s subverted act is also reflected in the lighting. Having to pretend that you are blind to see and be listened to reflects on social insensitivities towards internal human qualities that go missing when not understood.
The liberating moment being that, without ruining the twist that is well crafted, sudden but not forced and is genuinely shocking, the tuner manages to play while under pressure of possible death lurking out of his vision, saying, ‘She can’t kill me while I’m playing’. The music finally resonates over vision and in the end what is valued is expression and feeling as the film ends and he plays to the end of the song and then stops.
The conceptual thinking and style is engrossing, intriguingly mysterious and quick, but the major criticism would be that the character development is not given enough space. The film contained an incredibly ambitious amount of information for a Short, it could have stretched to a great feature length, and this left some key elements lacking. The protagonist’s talent and failure is not really exhibited, so the tragedy of his fall from grace and his depression is not properly dealt with and was in turn left unfelt. The result is that L’Accordeur is a difficult film to process and requires a lot of work from the viewer to unravel. It takes a few viewings to work out why the piano tuner needed to be blind, whether or not he was a voyeur, and why it ends the way it does. There is some irony in a film that explores communication and fails to communicate itself. Having said that, it’s still gripping and well worth a watch.