The Piano Teacher

These covers are real outliers for me. It’s not that I shy away from reading dark stories or subject matters, but I don’t often feel like I want to explore them by making covers for them. I saw this movie and subsequently read the book years ago, but it’s always stayed with me: a story of violence and obsession, of how brutality is passed down like a disease first from mother to daughter, and then from lover to lover, how quickly a perpetrator can become a victim, and how quickly our sympathies as viewers can curdle and revolt. Is it any wonder I haven’t wanted to watch it or read it again?! But still, it stayed on my mind as a cover, so here are the two approaches.

I think any distortion or violence done to the image of a body is very disturbing on an intuitive, gut level. I really dislike the fingers separated from the hand. There’s something almost sensuous about the bruise in the other, which is gross. Gross! And that color all over the rest of the cover makes it feel like the whole book is covered in skin, EW! I’ve grossed myself out so much doing these covers, that I feel like I’ve really conveyed my experience of reading the book.

Both covers focus on the main character’s sadomasochistic tendencies. I mean, you should know what you’re getting into when you pick up this book, right? Erika Kohut holds a position at a prestigious Viennese conservatory where she teaches the most elite and talented of students. For me, part of the fascination of the movie was watching the teacher bully her students into submission, and thinking about how playing an instrument at that level is often a case of a “punishing” practice schedule, a curbing and subduing of students so that they can attain a competitive level of mastery. Erika’s harsh treatment of her students isn’t even that remarkable in this environment; it’s the perfect cover from under which she can freely indulge her cruelty. I wanted to make explicit the link between the instrument and her need to punish herself and to punish others. Do I have to tell you that things go from bad to worse over the course of the movie? I don’t want to go too much into it, so here are the full covers, and a variation on #2.

I gave you more context for the bruise in this one. Because the other one wasn’t gross enough?