August 14, 2012 by Me and My Monkeys
An elderly couple grappling with illness, mortality and loss is hardly a recipe for ticket sales. There are some subtle Haneke ambiguities and false leads, but no thematic or narrative gimmick that makes the subject matter any more accessible to the comic book generation.
There is also something obscene about cutting so close to the bones of real human experience, but Haneke approaches his story with such delicate and sincere accuracy that it’s hard not to feel the film’s power, despite it emotional toll.
From a beautifully self-reflexive second scene, Haneke’s cinematic patience is as astounding as ever. Like no other, he frames his shots and holds them until his audience understands what is poignant about the hallway, the pigeon or the ex-student waiting. There are no montages or ‘three months later’ cards, just a slow suffocation in real time, leaving the audience empty and exhausted.
The struggle that he portrays is, unfortunately, real life. The problem is that Haneke gives us no emotional release from the pain of Anne and Georges; there is barely a teardrop or a touch that we can vicariously use to expel our own feelings of grief and loss. We ultimately leave the theatre heavier than we came in.
Shame on Haneke for putting us through it, and congratulations to him for doing it so perfectly.
Recommended? With a great deal of caution.
Out of 10? At least 8, possibly 9. But you’ll have to work for it and you may not have it in you.
My monkeys suggest:
- Watch Funny Games (the original) to get freaked out in an equal but different way, and then buy the Haneke box set so he can do it to you again and again.