Let’s think about things.
Michael Haneke’s 71 Fragments is at once a more experimental and accessible film from the consistently challenging director. We follow numerous individuals throughout a series of fragments as we watch the chronology of events that ends with a mass shooting at a bank.
Interspersed among the scenes with the characters is news broadcasts discussing violence and horror around the world. Our relation to media, and how it shapes our reality, is a major side focus of the film.
As with all of Haneke’s films, he asks to look and then look closer. Careful examination of each fragment may reveal a deeper insight, or perhaps he is just playing funny games with us. I tend to let Haneke’s work digest a bit before committing to an interpretation, but this blog is based primarily on my initial reactions to a work.
A distressed college student, a lonely old man, and unhappy marriage, a refugee, and parents trying to adopt are our primary focuses. Of course, we get additional insights to provide peripheral knowledge and scene-setting. However, we know these characters will intersect, and we also know from the opening text they will intersect violently when our college student goes on a shooting rampage.
The commentary of the story is important, and the callousness of violence is something worth examining. However, I can’t help but think that cutting the opening text would require us to look closer. Knowing how it will end (something that worked better in Amour) takes a bit of the bite away. Perhaps he wanted us to know the inevitable point, but the tune of the dance is a little predictable here.
The shots are well done. The signature cold style is present as we carefully (and almost voyeuristically) watch these people in their daily lives. I wish they would remaster these old films. Watching this on a television that tries to upscale the grainy textures makes the film look more dated than it should. While some of this is a stylistic choice, the upscaling makes the saturation of the dark scenes look weird.
The harsh social criticisms of sexism, racism, class, and other issues are present. Mixed in with heartbreaking scenes where those who appear to want to do good are willing to abandon one project for one that looks funner or more exotic.
Individual scenes are telling and masterfully made. Others seem to falter slightly in their purpose. This might be the first Haneke film I have only liked but not loved. There is a missing spark that perhaps the central thesis (and the structure of the film) will inherently deny. Great ideas presented in their best way, but perhaps this way will always be a little unsatisfying.
I do think this is a film worth watching. It is a challenging narrative that forces you to consider even the mundane as profound. However, I don’t think this is his best effort. Overall, the film is still interesting, and a lesser Haneke project is still miles ahead of many.
Give it a go.