Michael Haneke Triple Bill

Hidden (2005)

Michael Haneke is a serious film-maker. He presents his films like a thesis: composed, somewhat intellectual and designed to provoke debate, but rather heavy-going and clinical, to the extent the general public would rather opt for a quick airport novel to read instead. But if you do fancy something a bit more challenging, why not give these a go.

Funny Games is an intriguing experiment in film which challenges the audience perception of reality and fiction, forcing them to become complicit in the events unfolding. In it, a couple of psychotic young men charm their way into a family's house and proceed to hold them hostage, promising to torture and kill them before the night is out. We know this because, rather disconcertingly, one of the villains breaks the fourth wall throughout, addressing us, the viewers, directly, explaining what will happen, asking us to bet on how it will turn out and admonishing us for wanting to watch such a violent movie for entertainment. As a result, it's not just a tense thriller, but one in which you feel rather guiltily involved. Haneke deliberately avoids giving any conventional release from the tension, seemingly more interested in using the film to present a discourse on watching movie violence, although some may find the points he's trying to make rather patronising. Ten years later, Haneke remade the film in the US, shot-for-shot (compare the trailers below), with star names Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, because he felt US audiences in particular needed to be taught a lesson about screen violence. The US audience responded by happily ignoring it and cheered along bloodthirstily to the mindless violence in the likes of The Dark Knight and Iron Man instead.

The Piano Teacher features an exceptional performance by Isabelle Huppert as a repressed music professor with violent sexual fantasies, who reluctantly enters into a relationship with a pupil. Be warned; it's grim and rather depressing viewing, but then I guess a film featuring sadomaschism, genital mutilation, violent sex, voyeurism and numerous piano recitals was never likely to be laugh-a-minute stuff. 

In Haneke's best film Hidden (Caché), Parisien couple Georges and Anne (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) are disturbed to find someone has been making surveillance tapes of them, which are then delivered to them anonymously. Since the tapes are not explicitly threatening, the police won't investigate further, but Georges begins to suspect they are related to events from his past and determines to find the culprit himself. All the ingredients for an intriguing thriller, then, but naturally Haneke has more on his mind than mere thrills. This is actually a metaphorical and political allegory about the crimes visted by colonial powers upon repressed nations and people, with themes of voyeurism, guilt and terrorism running throughout. Yeah, bet you weren't expecting that! Anyway, even if you can't be bothered with such lofty trifles, it's still a fine thriller, with the unnervingly long static camera shots, coupled with the absence of a soundtrack, making for unsettling viewing (is this partly because we are so used to fast editing and background music in most films we see nowadays?). The tension is increased by the excellent performances of Binoche & Auteuil and it has one terrific out-of-the-blue shock moment.  However, the deliberately vague ending will leave many frustrated and Haneke may in fact have done himself a disservice as many viewers will  be left puzzling over 'whodunnit' instead of considering the deeper issues that Haneke obviously feels are more important than the thriller aspect of the film.

So there you have it, three films which might leave you scratching your head a bit, but at least you can be relieved you don't have to answer any exam questions on them. Unless you do, of course, in which case....revise for another question.

No comments:

Post a Comment