the tuner

Shrouded and strangely out of place, a Steinway grand piano stands in the middle of a sparse office ambience. The unpacking is followed by the first inspection: “I think it has all the prerequisites,” says the expert – who is perhaps the best in his profession – and gets to work. From this point onward, piece by piece, he will uncover, clean and measure the inner workings of the piano. Hammers strike strings, and mutes, keys, and tuning pegs are devotedly optimized, tightened, taken apart and put back together with millimeter precision. Every move is perfect, while every unnecessary disturbance seems to be absorbed in the vacuum of this remote “White Cube”. In this way, the piano tuner’s listening becomes visible and his professional mastery can be experienced: calm, concentrated and almost meditative. Analogous to the level-headed professional, the filmmaker is also completely in her element. The ostensibly simple setting on the top floor of the headquarters of a Tyrolean fuel manufacturer turns out to provide a playfully ambiguous dialogue thanks to her approach. Increasingly, and characteristic of Sasha Pirker, architecture and the world of the surrounding Alpine peaks move into the picture. While the view expands from the inquisitive close-up to the outside, the apparent observation of craftsmanship reveals itself as a mischievous Jelinek reminiscence. In both the tuner and The Piano Teacher the “lunatics” have set up the grand piano at a lofty height – and Pirker, full of delicious megalomania, actually allows it to momentarily float away into the sky. Only the panting of Jelinek’s piano tuner remains in the film without a trace: unimpressed by repetition, the modern Sisyphus interprets correction as passion. Film and craft: process without end. (Sebastian Höglinger)

Translation: John Wojtowicz

"In Sasha Pirker’s the tuner, we have the opportunity to contemplate what often remains behind the scenes of musical performance and composition: the tuning of the instrument by expert hands, eyes and ears. Seasoned with a few notes of humour, the film invites us to take a glimpse at the painstakingly meticulous work of Stefan Knüpfer, one of the world’s most famous piano tuners. A voyage inside the entrails of a concert piano in search of the perfect sound is a task demanding high sensitivity and precise adjustment. In its short running time, the tuner frames what is a potentially infinite labour." (Cristina Álvarez López, Viennale 2023)

Orig. Title
the tuner
13 min
Sasha Pirker
Orig. Language
Sasha Pirker
Sasha Pirker
Sasha Pirker
Andreas Pils
Supported by
Albert Gutmann
Kurt Hennrich
Stefan Knüpfer
Original Sound
Lukas Klestil
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
5.1 surround
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Festivals (Selection)
Viennale - Vienna Int. Film Festival