Pianomania (PG)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner20/08/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Pianomania has a likeable subject and offers a fascinating insight into the perfectionism involved in piano tuning and the behind-the-scenes preparation required for a piano concert but the structure of the film is often frustrating and some background history wouldn't have gone amiss.

What's it all about?
Directed by Robert Cibis and Lilian Franck, Pianomania follows Steinway piano tuner Stefan Knupfer as he fine-tunes pianos for a series of concert pianists, including Alfred Brendel, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Lang Lang. The majority of the film concerns Knupfer's relationship with Aimard, as he spends an entire year meticulously preparing a piano for Aimard's upcoming recording of Bach's "Art of the Fugue."

The Good
Watching someone expertly performing a complex and difficult job can be both rewarding and fascinating, particularly in documentaries. That is very much the case here, as Stefan brings new meaning to the word perfectionism and uses a variety of intriguing tuning techniques, such as bouncing a tennis ball off the piano strings. He also reveals the part played by physical space, temperature and the pianist's own playing style in determining each tuning, noting that a piano tuned perfectly for one venue will sound completely different in another.

Stefan is an extremely likeable character, displaying good humour and extraordinary reserves of patience, most notably when Aimard indicates he wants both a big sound and a little sound, or informs Stefan that he wants the piano to sound like a clavichord, an organ and a harpsichord. By welcome contrast, all Lang Lang seems to require is a decent piano seat and the cameras dutifully follow Stefan all around the building, Spinal Tap-style, until he finds one.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that its structure is often frustrating – there's no voiceover and there are no to-camera interviews, so we learn nothing about Knupfer's background, such as how he came to choose his profession in the first place. The film is doubly frustrating if you're tone deaf, as it's difficult to tell the differences before and after the tuning (despite the multi-layered soundtrack) and if you have no interest in pianos, piano tuning or classical music then the film is basically like watching an Austrian Niles Crane tune a piano for 93 minutes.

Worth seeing?
Pianotuning is a fascinating insight into perfectionism in general and piano tuning in particular. Worth seeing.

Be the first to review Pianomania...
image
01 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (tbc)

Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, ...

image
02 The Theory of Everything (tbc)

Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Emily Watson

image
03 Pride (15)

Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Imelda Sta...

image
04 What We Did on Our Holidays (12A)

David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Anne...

image
05 The Guest (15)

Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Ethan Embry

Content updated: 23/08/2014 12:25

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Lucy (15)

Scarlet Johannson stars as a woman whose brain power is exponentially increased after she ingests a powerful new drug.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films

Hot Tickets

Film 4 Summer ScreenFilm 4 Summer Screen

Taking over the big screen at Somerset House again for August 2014, the Film 4 Summer Screen series brings a variety of classics and brand new films to audiences in the capital.