Understanding Michael Haneke – Funny Games (2007)

I honestly don’t know how to review this film without repeating myself wholesale, because it is an exact carbon copy of its 1997 original. Therefore, if you’re after my thoughts on what this film says about us as a society and how Haneke masterfully teaches us about the illusion of safety provided by financial wealth, I refer you to my review of that film. Instead, I think it might be a good opportunity to use the fact these two films are nearly identical twins to see them as an experiment proving auteur theory exists.  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Caché (2005)

Caché (Hidden) (2005)

All throughout his career Michael Haneke has been busy putting a scalpel to the wealthiest classes and flaying them methodically – layer after layer – to expose their flesh and the intricately woven network of delicate cardiovascular vessels pumping their azure blood. However, while doing so he has also been struggling with his own perspective and, hence, some of his work may give an impression that he has been engaged in this delicate surgical work whilst mounted atop a high horse of immovable moral authority. This is not the case here. Released in 2005, Caché proves unequivocally that at least for the moment Haneke was able to dismount and deliver his most cunning experiment in deconstructing the bourgeoisie, thus proving to be the pinnacle of his filmmaking career in my view. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Time of the Wolf (2003)

The term ‘time of the wolf’ finds its roots in Nordic folklore and in the most basic terms it denotes a time of the night just before the dawn. Ingmar Bergman once summarized it as a “the hour between night and dawn, when most people die, sleep is deepest, nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their worst anguish, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.” This note was an accompaniment to the screenplay to Hour of the Wolf, his 1968 psychological horror with Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: The Piano Teacher (2001)

I have to say that The Piano Teacher is an interesting specimen in Michael Haneke’s filmography, especially considering the entirety of what came before it, in that it is both a continuation of the journey throughout his longstanding thematic interests and a breath of fresh air at the same time. This is particularly with regard to Haneke’s proclivity towards detaching himself emotionally from the matter at hand and assuming the role of a cynical jester who takes pleasure from the simple act of torturing the viewer, which is almost completely absent from this film. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Code Unknown (2000)

Preamble

I have decided to include the following review in this Michael Haneke retrospective despite having watched it a little over a year ago for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the film is difficult to track down in my neck of the woods and giving it a genuine rewatch would be rather difficult. Secondly, I would like this review to stand close to my writings on his other works because, regardless of my opinion, the film is a key part of his journey as one of the foremost auteurs of our time. And finally, I don’t particularly think my view on this would shift radically anyway. However, it must be acknowledged – and it is partly why I am writing this short paragraph – that I watched Code Unknown before I was able to see 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, to which it is undoubtedly related structurally and thematically. In hindsight, I would have maybe adjusted my opinion on this film to a small degree had I known these two films were so closely related; however, I still stand by my thoughts and an overarching opinion that Michael Haneke was occasionally forgetting to dismount his moral high horse and delivering his timely and poignant sermons in a most unapproachable manner.

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Funny Games (1997)

Having transitioned to the cinematic format from television, Michael Haneke immediately embarked on a long-winded quest to critique the malaise he observed within the Austrian society of the time. This came to be known as The Glaciation Trilogy and encompassed his first three features released theatrically: The Seventh ContinentBenny’s Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. Even though the three films are only bound together by an overarching clinically detached tone and a set of loosely woven threads, such as a scathing takedown of the wealthier classes unable to find humanity and compassion within their lives, or a detrimental role of the omnipresent media, they nonetheless set the tone for what would later become a monolithic filmography driven by a single cause (or an obsession).  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994)

Released in 1994, 71 Fragments Of A Chronology Of Chance was meant to cap the so-called Glaciation Trilogy, which also includes Haneke’s two preceding efforts, The Seventh Continent and Benny’s Video. In some ways, this film seems symmetrical to both of them. It is inspired by a true story of a student who – out of nowhere – walked into a Viennese bank and opened fire killing a bunch of by-standers before blowing his own brains out, which tethers the film thematically to The Seventh Continent in particular. In addition, the entirety of its fragmented narrative is also interspersed with various bits of archival news footage mostly covering the Balkan War in graphic detail, which is consistent with the crucial role TV screens played in his other movies. However, this film did not resonate with me the way these other films did. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: The Seventh Continent (1989)

This article is a part of a comprehensive journey through the cinema of Michael Haneke, an often-overlooked auteur whose cutting critical analysis continues to be relevant to this day.

Michael Haneke’s transition from the highly regimented and thematically constrained universe of television was allegedly catalyzed by a short news article about a regular Austrian family whose members decided to end their lives, seemingly without any valid reason. The Seventh Continent is Haneke’s attempt to wrestle with this moral puzzle.  

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