For a man who debuted with his first feature film at 47, Austrian Michael Haneke has done rather well for himself. His feature Amour has won him his second Cannes in three years, putting him in an elite club of only seven directors to have pulled off such a feat. His earlier Cannes Palme D’Or was for The White Ribbon, a black-and-white dazzler based on a feudal village in Germany on the eve of World War I. So deeply unpleasant are the goings-on in this village that it comes as no surprise that Nazism had to be borne out of such murky inner workings in a society. Amour, they say, is a more touching tale of an ageing couple coming to terms with their imminent death – this might be an aberration for a man whose filmography evokes more dread than warmth. And yet, there is something so razor-sharp about Haneke’s observations of society and of the humans in it that you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Yahoo! India Movies recommends this crash course for Michael Haneke beginners:
Weekend Day One: Cache
His film Cache, which also won top honours at film festivals across the world is about a French producer who starts receiving video tapes that merely takes long CCTV-style shots of his front door as seen from the street on which he lives. The producer and his wife try very hard to figure out who the culprit is – for along with the VHS tape comes yet another souvenir: an extremely violent drawing, ostensibly drawn by a child. Cache has the best rolling titles to conclude a film in cinematic history, but for that you need to invest in a gruelling two-hour ride that is addictive, vicious and redefines your relationship to the visual medium: are those tapes a parable for a society that has gotten so paranoid that it leaves a ‘cache’ of ghost images for every human who inhabits them? Are those tapes a hallucination? Yet, there is something murkier in the producer’s past. To find out, you need to watch Cache, and do not forget to check out the director’s interview in the special features.
Weekend Day Two: Funny Games
Yet another Haneke classic – if you are a horror film fan especially – is Funny Games, made not once, but twice by the guru (the latter was a Hollywood remake of his German-language original). It has the reputation for being so nasty that Wim Wenders walked out at its screening at Cannes in the late ‘90s. Despite some brickbats, Funny Games remains a classic of horror filmmaking, because Haneke chose to turn the lens back on the viewer – our innate impulse to watch people get maimed, bruised and killed on screen. An upper middle-class couple and their son take off for a weekend to their lakeside home, only to be brutally tortured by a duo of preppie psychopaths. The film has enough references to the fact that it is only a film – the psychopaths, for one, talk into the camera, addressing you every now and then. It only makes matters worse. The Hollywood version, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, was less effective. However, it is the German version that truly stands apart for its commentary on how cinema is and can be an agency for our more sadistic leanings. Funny Games deconstructs the slasher flick and turns it on its head. Thus, it has all the elements of a quintessential horror film: a lakeside house, a psychopath, an endangered house, the hope of escape. Yet, how Mr Haneke decides to toy with these and come out with an arthouse flick is remarkable and horrifying. For a less gruelling deconstruction of the horror genre, check out our review of The Cabin in The Woods, running at a theatre near you this weekend. It is said to be a game changer in the horror genre with a 90% approval rating on RottenTomatoes.