Michael Haneke is one of the most acclaimed European authors and a highly refined intellectualist who combines exquisite directing techniques with an educational background in philosophy and psychology. The works of this Austrian artist are both detached and insightful, trying to get to the core of the problem as they turn into a polyphony of several dozen character voices speaking about the lights and shadows of the global modern era. Ten of Haneke’s films being shown as a retrospective of his work at the Two Riversides Festival allows to track his creative path from his cinema debut (The Seventh Continent, 1989) up to Amour (2012), which earned him his second Golden Palm in Cannes.
Haneke made The Seventh Continent after spending several years in television, so he was quite a seasoned director at the time and one who knew very well how to work with actors on the set. This way, his experience bore fruit both in his cinema debut and in his subsequent film, Benny’s Video (1992); until today they both remain a shocking portrayal of the life of ordinary Austrian townspeople whose homes are scenes of ineffable and incomprehensible violence. Together with 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance those films make up the so-called “glaciation trilogy”, as the director himself dubbed it. Indeed, just like the iconic Funny Games (1997) packed with scenes of absurd and extreme violence, Haneke’s informal trilogy uncovers genuine horror under the seemingly boring everyday life, raising a question what hides behind the façade of Europe’s wealth and complacency.
Considering that his films contain criticism of his fellow nationals and the Western European lifestyle and social and economic model in general, Haneke can be lined up with writers such as Elfriede Jelinek and Thomas Bernhard, who would turn their contentious rhetoric into fine prose. One of the most popular Haneke’s film, The Piano Teacher (2001) starring Isabelle Huppert in the leading role, is in fact an adaptation of Jelinek’s novel. It is just one of Haneke’s films shot mainly in French. Code Unknown from the year before as well as Hidden (2005) and Amour were made with some of the biggest names of the French cinema (Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva). The multitude of languages that can be heard in his films and prominent personalities making their appearances as actors make his artistic work truly international.
A White Ribbon (2009), the only black-and-white film in Haneke’s portfolio and the first to win the Golden Palm, depicts a German village before World War I as a self-contained micro-universe built on traditions where demons wake. A similar world can be seen in the adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Castle, of which he is the director. Ambiguous relations between the residents make K., who comes from the outside, feel as if he were caught in a labyrinth. That is the realm of Michael Haneke for you, a master of the cinema who has honed the skill of disturbing his audience to absolute perfection.
2017 Happy End
2009 Biała wstążka|Das weiße Band|A White Ribbon
2007 Funny Games U.S.
2001 Pianistka|La Pianiste|The Piano Teacher
2000 Kod nieznany|Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages|Code Unknown
1997 Zamek|Das Schloß|The Castle
1997 Funny Games
1994 71 fragmentów|71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls|71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance
1992 Wideo Benny’ego|Benny’s Video
1989 Siódmy kontynent|Der siebente Kontinent|The Seventh Continent