What Is The Perfection In The Perfection, Anyway?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: This post contains mega-spoilers for The Perfection.
Beware: There is no room for mistakes at the Bachoff Academy. The Netflix movie The Perfection, out May 24, takes place in a rarefied, elite musical world in which every note matters – and the slightest misstep comes with an awful price.
No one knows this better than Charlotte Wilmore (Allison Williams), Bachoff's former star cellist. A decade ago, Charlotte had to withdraw from the Bachoff Academy because her mother became terminally ill. After leaving, she finally realizes the twisted mind-games that had kept her terrified for so long. And she's not going to let another girl suffer as she did.
So that's what brings Charlotte to Shanghai at the start of the movie. Lizzie (Logan Browning) has replaced Charlotte as the star cellist du jour. They both have the same minuscule musical note tattoo. From that tattoo alone, Charlotte knows that Lizzie has also been prey to the unconventional (read: abusive) teaching methods of Anton (Stephen Weber), the Academy's leader.
Lizzie, too, has been encouraged to reach "the perfection" at all costs.

What is the perfection?

The "perfection" is what the most talented young students at Bachoff Academy are trained to achieve. Essentially, "the perfection" is a musical performance completely free of errors — and thus worthy of playing in the school's former chapel, an acoustically sublime sanctuary to music. Anton assigns a spiritual value to such flawless playing. It's what Lizzie describes as the "special work" done at the Academy.

What's the significance of the chapel?

The perfection is meant to take place within the chapel, a space reserved for the school's most talented performers. This elite set is marked by same tattoo: A small musical note (yep, like Lizzie and Charlotte's). Any mistake played in the chapel is a "discredit" to the Academy. A mistake indicates the student was "prepared for the perfection, and then failed." And when students fail, their music can't take them "closer to God."
Let's unravel that twisted logic. According to the philosophy of Bachoff Academy, perfect music is a channel to the divine; a mistake is an insult to those same divine forces. So when one of "the chosen" messes up, they pay the price.

What happens when a student makes a mistake?

Here's where things get truly gruesome. An hour into the movie, Charlotte remembers a moment in her childhood. She's playing the cello for Anton in the Academy's chapel. When she makes a mistake — a tiny slip-up, inaudible to the untrained ear — Anton tenses. This is a major transgression.
“We don’t make mistakes here. Not when we represent the Academy," Anton chides.
Then, he approaches her from behind and touches her back. Yes, your alarm bells should be blaring. After a long, wound-up speech, it happens. In a flash, we see his naked body approaching. Seemingly, his cronies Theis (Mark Kandborg) and Geoffrey (Graeme Duffy) join in.
To summarize: Students at Bachoff Academy are trained to achieve musical perfection through repeated sexual assault. Yep, it's that unimaginably twisted.

How long has this been happening at Bachoff?

The Academy's insidious teaching method is older than Anton. "I teach you the way they taught me, the way they taught Theis and Geoffrey, and anyone who's fortunate enough to earn their place here," Anton said. Now, they perpetrate the same rituals.
Clearly, the Academy's brain-washing is incredibly effective. Charlotte only achieves clarity after she was forcibly removed from the Academy, and then spent years shuffling in and out of mental hospitals. She knows it'll take a drastic action to extricate Lizzie, which is why she tricks her to cut off her own hand. Only then does Lizzie realize she's not a part of something divine, she's not enacting "special work." Rather, she's a victim of repeated sexual assault.
Someone call the cops! Oh, wait: Someone could. Paloma (Alaina Huffman), Anton's wife, is aware — but instead, she allows the system to continue.

The name Bachoff Academy has to be on purpose, right?

Surely the fact that "Bachoff Academy" sounds a lot like "Back Off Academy" can't be a coincidence. Because seriously? Back off, Anton, Theis, and Geoffrey, you villains.
Well, that's effectively what Charlotte and Lizzie at the movie's shocking end. Go get 'em.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotlineat 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.

More from Movies

R29 Original Series