Michael Haneke – Das Schloß AKA The Castle (1997)

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It was just a matter of time before Michael Haneke and Franz Kafka crossed paths. The Castle, the Austrian filmmaker’s made-for-TV version of the Czech writer’s famous unfinished novel, promises an intriguing meeting between these two dedicated misanthropes, yet despite the overlapping bleakness of their worldviews, the film is notable mostly as an example of how somebody can follow a work to the letter and still miss its essence. K. (Ulrich Mühe) comes in from the cold, summoned by the mysterious officials at “the Castle” to an isolated village for a position as land surveyor; instead he finds himself reluctantly engaged to forlorn barmaid Frieda (Susanne Lothar), saddled with a couple of dolts (Felix Eitner and Frank Giering) for assistants, and trudging in circles in the snow, helplessly trying to unscramble the tortuous snafu that’s made him “superfluous and in everybody’s way.” Haneke’s last Austrian picture before his departure to France and richer, less offensive films (The Time of the Wolf, Caché), The Castle is something of a companion piece to the director’s deplorable, hectoring Funny Games, even bringing back the earlier film’s tormented couple for another round of inexplicable distress. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Variation (1983)

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Haneke depicts the emotional story of an adulterous relationship between a journalist and a teacher. The film poignantly explores the difficult dynamics between people who love one another but still can’t keep from hurting one another. Variation has been described by its director as being closer to John Cassavetes than to Hollywood melodrama. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Die Rebellion (1993)

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Die Rebellion (The Rebellion). 1993. Austria. Directed by Michael Haneke. With its silent-era aesthetic of sepia tones and muted color tints, and its interweaving of realism and fantasy, Haneke’s haunting adaptation of Joseph Roth’s expressionistic 1924 novel is an homage to the great Weimar cinema of G. W. Pabst and F. W. Murnau. In a heartbreaking performance, Branko Samarovski plays Andreas Pum, a soldier who loses his leg during the Great War and becomes an organ-grinder to earn a few coins a day. To this loyal citizen of the State, the veterans and firebrands who march in protest against society’s neglect are lazy, insubordinate “heathens.” But when an ugly tram incident condemns Pum to a life of penury and loneliness, his soul is awakened to the bitter waste of a life spent in duty to God and Empire. In German; 90 min Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Benny’s Video (1992)

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The second part of Haneke’s “glaciation trilogy” begins with a buzz and a bang: the white noise of a television screen snow shower and then the bang of a pig being shot on the subsequent home video. Benny’s Video is the most accessible film of the trilogy, but still never departs from Haneke’s powerful concoction of brutal images and laconic montage. Benny is a neglected son of rich parents in Vienna. He spends his days and nights in his room lost in a cobweb of video equipment, cameras, monitors and editing consoles. He keeps his shades drawn at all times and experiences the outside world mediated through the camcorders he has set up outside his windows. He obsessively reviews the farmyard killing of a pig in forward and reverse, slow motion and freeze-frame. Intermittently, he flips through channels full of news on neo-nazi killings, toy commercials, war films and reports on the incipient war in Yugoslavia. One day he meets a girl at the video store and invites her back to his empty house. He shows her the stun-gun used to kill the pig and shoots her with it. The girl’s death is shot visually out of the camera’s frame although the audience is privy to excruciating minutes of screams and whimpers. In the end, Benny foils his parents’ perversely cynical attempt to cover up the murder. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Funny Games (1997)

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What do you do if a stranger comes to your home and politely asks to borrow some eggs?

So far, it doesn’t sound like a good film, but Funny Games isn’t a good film. There’s no way it can be middle-of-the-road, it’s either brilliant or awful, depending on your point of view. Consider that when this film was first shown at Cannes, a lot of the audience walked out, including some professional film critics. In short, this is a film you need to see to have any true appreciation of how it works. I could describe everything that happens in minute detail, and still not impart what actually happens. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Code inconnu AKA Code Unknown (2000)

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…even after a number of viewings, I’m still not sure if what I have seen is a kind of high Euro-modernist masterpiece about race, culture, urban rage and alienated identity – or a perversely opaque and frustrating essay in enigma, a labyrinth of blind alleys, in which putative solutions are forbiddingly walled off. It is a film which gestures at the literal incomprehensibility of experience, how it resists encirclement and extends beyond the perimeters of perception and interpretation. The mood of Code Unknown is moreover often fractious, crackling with unease and ill-humour, and yet this is a movie whose images and personae linger in the mind, and which can deliver dazzlingly generous, compassionate insights…
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian Continue reading

Michael Haneke – 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (1994)

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71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (German: 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls) is a 1994 Austrian drama film directed by Michael Haneke. It has a fragmented storyline as the title suggests, and chronicles several unrelated stories in parallel. Separate narrative lines intersect in an incident at the last of the film: a mass killing at an Austrian bank. The film is set in Vienna, October to December 1993.

The film is divided into a number of variable-length “fragments” divided by black pauses, and apparently unrelated to each other. The film is characterised by quite a lot of fragments that take form of video newscasts unrelated to the main storylines. News footages of real events are shown through video monitors. Newscasts report on Bosnian War, Somali Civil War, South Lebanon conflict, Kurdish–Turkish conflict, and molestation allegations against Michael Jackson. Continue reading