Anna Bronsky, a violin teacher at an elite Berlin academy for young musicians, is not what she seems. As The Audition begins, she appears to be a champion of the underdog, arguing in favor of admission for a talented but high-strung youth named Alexander (newcomer Ilya Monte). The teenager is given six months to improve enough to pass an audition that will determine whether he can continue.
Over that time, Anna’s life starts to crumble, and the movie gradually shifts from the expected teacher-student drama to something darker and more amorphous. Anna (Nina Hoss, Phoenix), it seems, has been cheating on her French husband, Philippe (Simon Abkarian, Casino Royale), a maker of custom string instruments, and she’s leaning on her young son, Jonas (Serafin Mishiev), to become a premier violinist when he’d really rather play hockey.
Apparently Anna has unresolved self-doubt that traces back to her elderly parents (they live nearby, needing more assistance than Anna can provide), and she’s a concert-level violinist herself who’s no longer able to perform in public.
What’s wrong with Anna is never quite clear, and it soon becomes apparent that no neat resolution will be forthcoming. The central relationship is between Anna and Jonas, not Anna and her student — whom her son sees as his rival. How that dynamic plays out determines the outcome of the movie, and it’s unlikely that viewers will be able to predict the icy ending.
That’s less of a spoiler than a caveat: If you dive into The Audition, keep in mind it’s less Mr. Holland’s Opus and more Whiplash. Director Ina Weisse keeps the movie gripping and unpredictable, but she has no interest in making it comfortable. Music, she seems to be saying, is perfection, but the people who produce it are anything but.
Available to rent starting June 26 via grailmoviehouse.com