Movies We Like
The Films of Michael Haneke (Boxset)
Michael Haneke is one of the most innovative and exciting filmmakers currently working. His films can be extremely shocking and, at times, graphically violent. But unlike most thriller directors, Haneke chooses to downplay his violence. Haneke prefers a cold austerity to the melodramatic hysterics that characterize modern thrillers. His characters are cold and unfeeling, resulting in an atmosphere of psychological turmoil, emotional paralysis, and impending doom. His paradoxical approach to violence instills an unnerving tension within any well-balanced viewer, and this tension quickly turns into utter terror. Haneke thwarts his viewers of their moment of cathartic release: that tantalizing moment in which viewer and filmmaker can share a moralizing sigh of relief and say, “Ah, wasn’t that horrible?” No one is bailed out of a Haneke film; instead, the viewer must deal with and eventually accept the bleak situation that confronts him.
Haneke’s unapologetic approach to cinema expects more from its audience than your normal pure entertainment thriller or horror film. When watching Haneke’s films, despite the discomfort we feel, we must never alienate ourselves from the violent acts depicted on screen (and in the specific case of Funny Games, we are even encouraged to play along). His films always provoke social thought and personal introspection. Ultimately, Haneke wants his viewers to ask more questions, and to view this tiny world and all its complexities with a more critical eye. Oh, and yes, they are quite riveting to watch as well…
Kino Video has put together a great box set of 7 out of 9 of his films, which include The Seventh Continent, Benny’s Video, 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, The Castle, Funny Games, Code Unknown, and The Piano Teacher. I highly recommend this box set for someone already familiar with his work and who wants it all (don’t worry, you’ll be one of us soon).
If you are new to the Haneke stuff, all of these films are available in identical single DVDs. Also, Haneke’s latest films, Time of the Wolf and Cache, are available on DVD as well, but are not included in the box set (sad but true). If it helps, here are my top 3 Haneke films: Benny’s Video, Funny Games, and Cache.