By Anna Swanson

You could throw a dart and hit an apt musical metaphor for Ina Weisse’s The Audition: it’s a symphonic study of human behaviour, a film with an unrelenting rhythm that crescendos with an act both shocking and, on reflection, inevitable. Nina Hoss is absolutely magnificent as Anna, a violin teacher who takes a special interest in one of her teenage students, Alexander (Ilja Monti). who is several years older, more skilled, and—perhaps most importantly—more committed to music than Anna’s own son, Jonas (Serafin Mishiev). Slowly but surely, Anna channels her perfectionism into her young pupil. Although her stifled passions have clearly been present for a while, her work with Alexander exposes them, and threatens to aggravate the tensions in her marriage to Philippe (Simon Abkarian). Anna is German, but he’s French; they live in Berlin but speak his native tongue when talking to each other. One can imagine this came from a compromise made many years ago, a compromise not unlike Philippe’s willingness to turn over his own meal in a restaurant when Anna decides after ordering that she’d prefer his steak to her pasta. The film is finely tuned to the gives and takes that are built into their routines as a couple; the quid pro quos that they abide by are surely not enough on their own to cause a rift, but when one is already formed, they don’t help. Weisse tactfully chronicles Anna’s personal and professional exploits without condemning or condoning her actions. The film certainly never takes Hoss’ impeccable work as an actor for granted, but it is noteworthy that Anna comes to a number of important decisions while Weisse’s camera tracks her from behind; if her emotions flicker across her face in these moments, we don’t see them. It’s a brilliant and unsettling choice that allows Anna to remain just out of reach. Even when exposing her capabilities, the film maintains that she possesses a depth no one close to her—and not even Anna herself—can truly grasp.