Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke – Amour (2012)

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Cinema feeds on stories of love and death, but how often do filmmakers really offer new or challenging perspectives on either? Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ is devastatingly original and unflinching in the way it examines the effect of love on death, and vice versa. It’s a staggering, intensely moving look at old age and life’s end, which at its heart offers two performances of incredible skill and wisdom from French veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

The Austrian director of ‘Hidden’ and ‘The White Ribbon’ offers an intimate, brave and devastating portrait of an elderly Parisian couple, Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant), facing up to a sudden turn in their lives. Haneke erects four walls to keep out the rest of the world, containing his drama almost entirely within one apartment over some weeks and months. The only place we see this couple outside their flat, right at the start, is at the theatre, framed from the stage. Haneke reverses the perspective for the rest of the film. The couple’s flat becomes a theatre for their stories: past, present and future. Read More »

Michael Haneke – Le temps du loup AKA Time of the Wolf (2003)

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As you may know, Michael Haneke doesn’t make comfortable films; there was Funny Games, which I thought was almost physically painful to watch, and then he made The Piano Teacher, a shocking but compulsive experience starring Isabelle Huppert as a sexually repressed piano teacher who has a dysfunctional relationship with her mother. And the rest of the world. Time of the Wolf is disconcerting, although not quite in the same class as The Piano Teacher. Read More »

Michael Haneke – Der siebente Kontinent AKA The Seventh Continent (1989)

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Michael Haneke’s masterful first film The Seventh Continent/Der Siebente Kontinent introduced concerns basic to the director’s art, principal among them the notion that the “death of affect”, a key fixation of postmodernity, should not be a subject of cynical concelebration (as it seems to be for many artists of the moment). Rather, Haneke views the end of affect, which is to say the acceptance of alienation as an inevitable and rather “hip” state of being, as a profound sickness that serious art no longer interrogates, the standard postmodern view being that its study is a naïve and dated preoccupation. As a consequence, Haneke is often associated with cinema’s great modernists, with Antonioni frequently cited as the kinsman of closest sensibility. Read More »

Michael Haneke – La pianiste AKA The Piano Teacher (2001)

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Michael Haneke’s latest torture mechanism is less funny game than daunting debasement ritual. Isabelle Huppert stars as Erika Kohut, an icy piano teacher who goes masochistic when handsome young Walter Klemmer (Benoit Magimel) wants to play with her cold ivory. Huppert responds to Haneke with such straight-faced precision that you might just buy into the director’s seemingly shallow provocations. Spousal punishment in Bergman’s Cries & Whispers came in the form of self-mutilation. Haneke, though, has Huppert paint a more squeamish picture of self-love that also contemplates the possibility of pleasure in pain. The director has an uncanny ability to force the spectator’s gaze and takes his time revealing Erika’s many fetishes. Though all-powerful in the classroom, Erika is slapped around by her busybody mother as if she were a constantly misbehaving child. Read More »

Michael Haneke – Happy End (2017)

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From theguardian.com

It hardly needs saying that the adjective in the title is about as accurate as the one in Haneke’s Funny Games. Happy End is a satirical nightmare of haute-bourgeois European prosperity: as stark, brilliant and unforgiving as a halogen light. It is not a new direction for this film-maker, admittedly, but an existing direction pursued with the same inspiration as ever. It is also as gripping as a satanically inspired soap opera, a dynasty of lost souls. The movie rehearses almost all of Haneke’s classic themes and visual ideas: family dysfunction, inter-generational revenge, the poisonous suppression of guilt and the return of the repressed. There is the horror of death combined with a Thanatos-like longing for its deliverance – one line in particular shows how Happy End has been inspired by the climactic moment of his previous film, Amour. There is the distinctive preoccupation with surveillance and video recording as technologically unsparing moral reproaches to what we choose not to see in our own behaviour. And Haneke combines this with a new interest in the affectless visual texture of social-media livestreaming, instant messaging, and YouTube supercuts. Read More »

Michael Haneke – Das weiße Band – Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte AKA The White Ribbon (2009)

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Ever wonder about the ancestors of the murderous jocks in Funny Games? In the Palme d’Or-winning The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke time travels to rural Germany on the cusp of WWI to find the answer—or, rather, to make the audience’s collective skin crawl at the question. The setting is the small village of Eichwald, a bucolic commune that, presided over by such stern patriarchs as the landowning baron (Ulrich Tukur) and the pastor (Burghart Klaussner), is presented as a 19th-century holdover inexorably giving way to the darkening modernity of new times. Not that Haneke displays much nostalgia for the town’s traditions: Life here is dismal, oppressive, and rigidly hierarchical, erected on puritanical morals and reinforced with ritualized punishment. Hitler—the “bitter flower of German irrationalism,” as Hans-Jürgen Syberberg once put it—may still lurk beyond the horizon, but the seeds of fascism have already been sown in society’s unquestioning adherence to power structures. Read More »

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. Read More »