Let’s be methodical should we want to get through it.
Michael Haneke’s first film is an exercise in patient, a focus on isolation, and a chilling look at the methodical destruction of a family.
We follow Anna, Georg, and Evi as they move through their daily activities over the course of a couple of years. There is a level of resentment towards their jobs, their position, and where they are in life. There is a desire to emigrate to Australia from Austria, but that never takes place.
The film is loosely based on a true story. The family, despite being somewhat well off, ritualistically destroys everything they own and then themselves. While that might sound like a major spoiler, I can’t imagine many watching the film now without being familiar with the major plot points. Also, the destruction is about a third of a film.
Haneke refuses to allow us the answers. As with all of his work, you will walk away with more questions than you did going in. What drove the family to commit this act isn’t entirely clear, and the way they go about dismantling their entire lives is chilling to say the least.
The story itself is interesting, but the filming is excellent as well. We do not get a look at the character’s faces for about fifteen minutes. More often than not we are shown their hands, arms, or a different fragment of the whole. The isolating effect this has makes the trivial scenes interesting—at least to me.
I can see where some would find this film boring. We do watch the banality of life for quite a while before things take a sinister turn, but I think the film will be hypnotic for as many viewers as it pushes away.
This is at its core a simple film. However, it made me think and feel while watching it—something that has become a rarity with most film. The consequences are shocking here, and the fragility of life is on full display. Haneke approaches his films with a singular thesis and hammers that point home the entire time. This sort of film is meant to discomfort you—to make you think and to make you consider things we take for granted.
While I do not think this is Haneke’s best work it is certainly worth seeing. I highly suggest giving this one a watch.