Teachers know best until they don’t, and dreams are sweet until they morph into truth. Great music asks for the player to commit to dreams, truth, and most all, their teachers. Ina Weisse’s The Audition or Das Vorspiel darkly shows the sacrifices ruthless artists hang upon themselves to please their teachers, parents, and themselves in a ruthless character study.
The Audition will remind some of Whiplash. J.K. Simmons made the psychotic perfectionist Fletcher into an all-time villain. Nina Hoss as Anna Bronsky welcomes those comparison. She plays a violin instructor who sees potential in a young student. However, like Fletcher she ruthlessly expects greatness from him. Nevertheless, her home life is in shambles. Her son craves her attention and displays psychotic tendencies. Her husband dutifully waits for her, though he’s aware his marriage is in trouble. Finally, there’s Anna’s own playing. She’s not performed live in sometime.
Anna’s playing issues stem from her traumatic relationship with her father. A stern taskmaster, he expected his daughter to rise to heights of grandeur. Anna passes on that trauma to her son, and later her students. She pushes her son to the point of sudden breaks in temper and despondency. Her soft-spoken student become fearful of her too. These components causes the usually prudent Anna to spin wildly out of control.
Daphne Charizani’s screenplay in combination with Hansjörg Weißbrich’s editing runs swift. Quick bursts of scenes align the events. Like Anna tells her young student: Presto, and the film follows suit. Meanwhile, Weisse draws incredibly subtle performances from her cast. The non-verbal acting by Hoss: the strain of the face or twitch of the eye, and others create subtext for a film that never externalizes answers to the characters’ problems. That subtly, the unspoken weight throughout, allows the film’s shocking and unnerving ending to hit in a snap—literally. Weisse doesn’t just re-create Whiplash, she does so from a woman’s perspective with a personal register toward the character that’s missing from the former. The Audition is a compelling and haunting character study.