Latest Michael Haneke news:
Decmeber 2013. Michael Haneke's TV film of the opera
Cosi Fan Tutte has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD.
June 2013. A documentary of Michael Haneke is released on DVD on 10th June. Michael H: Profession Director is a fascinating exploration of Haneke's work and we can't recommend it highly enough. The homepage for the documentary is here and enjoy the trailer below.
Michael Haneke - A Biography Part 1: Early years to 1988.
Michael Haneke was was born in Munich, Germany on 23rd March 1942. Haneke's father was director Fritz Haneke and his mother was actress Beatrix von Degenschild. Raised in Austria Michael Haneke went on to study Drama at University before working as a theatre director, film critic and an editor at a TV company.
1973 saw his break into film in West Germany with a TV movie called After Liverpool, which was the first in a long line of films for television either written by himself or adapted by Haneke, from novels, stretching from 1974 to 1986.
1989 saw Michael Haneke directing his first cinematic release The Seventh Continent (AKA Der Siebente Kontinent) which was a script he wrote for a TV movie but which was rejected by the TV companies and therefore made as a feature film instead. The Seventh Continent shows the story of Georg and his wife Anna (an eye doctor) who, oblivious to the routine monotonous lives they follow, realize that living the suburban dream is a hollow one and decide an extreme way out of the rut. Already in this first feature film the style and themes that are a constant in Haneke's work are already apparent. We see the beautifully considered visual aesthetic of the cinematography, the story inspired by a real life news item, the claustrophobic monotony and repetition of the minutiae of the family's life, punctuated with long minimal dialogue, with the story being resolved in a violent (and many times unseen) manner. Also apparent is Haneke's idiosyncrasies (for instance the husband and wife are called Georg and Anna respectively - check out how many other of Haneke's films are the lead characters named with subtle variants of the same names).
A return to TV with the self penned Nachruf für einen Mörder (1991) before Michael Haneke was able to make his next feature film Benny's Video in 1992. Benny's Video told the story of Benny, a young man virtually ignored by his wealthy parents, who spends his time in his bedroom obsessively watching violent movies (including his home video of a pig being slaughtered). But Benny degenerates into further madness and ends up killing a girl with a stun gun and filming it on his video camera. The second part of the loose trilogy whic began with The Seventh Continent, Benny's Video is every bit as stark as Haneke's notorious debut and maintained his initial impact on the European cinema industry, along the way collecting a couple of European Cinema awards, it also contained themes (violence and the complicity of the media and the audience) that would be further explored 15 years later in later films culminating in Cache.
A further TV movie followed in 1993 Die Rebellion. Adapted from a novel Joseph Roth, the story follows Andreas a disabled ex-soldier, who at the end of his life considers what his actions have achieved for him. 1994 saw the release of 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (AKA 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls). The final film in the trilogy is the story (again inspired by real life events) surrounding a mass killing at an Austrian Bank. The 71 segments each tell unrelated and unremarkable stories of individuals who will become victims, and are spliced together with news reportage of various current conflicts and news items (such as the Michael Jackson child molestation trial).
1995 saw Michael Haneke submit a segment to the film Lumiere and Company (aka Lumière et compagnie). The project brought together 40 international film directors each given the task of providing a segment for the film using original Lumière Brothers Cinematographe equipment invented by them, and imposing similar restrictions that they would have been subject to in 1895 i.e. the film could be no longer than 52 seconds, no synchronized sound was permitted, and should be no more than three takes.
In 1997 Haneke returned with the feature film Funny Games which tells the story of a wealthy Austrian family who go to their summerhouse by the lakes for a holiday. A well to do pair of young men who, as they look trustworthy, manage to bluff their way into the house. Once inside they begin to terrorise the family and kill them one by one. Despite its gruesome set up, the terror is punctuated with some dark humour with the ironic referential comments by the torturers to the film's audience, and at one stage even rewinding the film to ensure a more satisfying outcome to the film for the pair. Funny Games was a critical success for Haneke, and the film gained a nomination for the Golden Palm at Cannes (even after a walkout at the screening by parts of the audience disturbed the violence) and marked Haneke's breakthrough into a higher level of European Cinema.
1998 saw a return to TV with The Castle (aka Das Schloß) Haneke's was a precise and faithful adaptation of Franz Kafka's famously unfinished novel. The story follows K, a Land Surveyor, summoned by a count to attend a castle. K successfully arrives at the village surrounding the castle but with the complicit, and entirely unhelpful villagers thwarting his every move, and the castle itself frustrating his own attempts at contact, he is left frustrated and helpless in the unfriendly and bureaucratic village.
Part 2: 1999 to date.
Despite the success of Funny Games, all of Haneke's efforts to get a further film off the ground were frustrated until a call from French actress Juliette Binoche (asking Haneke to make a film with her in France) led to making Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (aka Code Inconnu: Récit Incomplet de Divers Voyages) in 2000. Code Unknown (starring Binoche) took a scene of a confrontation amongst a group of people and follows their diverging (and ultimately converging) paths after the confrontation. The film marked Haneke's leap from Austrian director to European director with its French and European outlook on matters such as migration and integration. Despite its fragmented approach (reminiscent of his approach with 71 Fragments) the film was yet another critical success winning both a jury prize and a Golden Palm nomination at Cannes.
2001 saw the breakthrough into the big league of world cinema with his adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek's novel The Piano Teacher (aka La Pianiste). This film centres around Erika a virtuoso pianist and and piano teacher at the Vienna Conservatory who, approaching her 40's, lives at home with her strict and repressive mother, and is seemingly scared of physical intimacy. One of her pupils Walter, a vain young man, make his interest in her clear, and Erica's hither to hidden sexual peculiarities and sadomasochistic tendencies now become focused on Walter's advances. Trusting she has found a partner to fulfil her desires, her stone clad exterior is maintained as she advises him of his duties to her (to indulge her masochistic tendencies). Disgusted by her suggestions Walter immediately rejects and abandons her. Erika exposed and lost begins to fall apart, and with the balance of power now with Walter,she pleads with him to allow her to make him happy. The Piano Teacher, despite its extreme and relatively explicit nature,was a significant commercial and critical success winning Best Actress, Best Actor and the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes and with Isabelle Huppert (Best Actress) and Michael Haneke winning many awards around Europe.
Buoyed by the stunning success of The Piano Teacher, 2003 finally saw the Time of The Wolf (aka Le Temps du Loup) a project that he had unsuccessfully tried to get commissioned over many years, released. Again starring Isabelle Huppert, Time of the Wolf is set in the post-apocalyptic France of the near future. Society has crumbled, the nation's infrastructure is also in shatters, and there is no running water, electricity or apparent transport. Anne (who else), her husband George (who else, again) and young son and daughter escape from the town and arrive at the refuge of their summer home. Upon arriving there they find it is already occupied by squatters who proceed to shoot and kill George before stealing all the family's supplies and force them to leave move on. Eventually they come to a railway station where a small struggling group of individuals are holed up in the hope that a train will come past, which they can then make stop, and that it will take them somewhere safe. With food and water running low and leaders taking control of the demand for supplies, things begin to look even more bleak. But then a large group of travelers join the community and among them is the man who shot Anne's husband. How will Anne and the fledgling community deal with this new situation? Time of the Wolf did not really maintain the momentum of The Piano Teacher, despite a fantastic and tremendously thought provoking (if stark) story, excellent performances from Isabelle Huppert and Beatrice Dalle and some excellent cinematography, the starkness of the film may have alienated it's potential somewhat.
A return to form came in 2006 with the critically acclaimed Hidden (aka Cache). Hidden tells the story of Georges (!) the famous host of an arts discussion show on TV, who lives in Paris in a comfortable house with his wife Anne (!!) and son Pierrot. Georges begins to receive surveillance videotapes of their house and their comings and goings. George and Anne are spooked but they are at a loss as to who may be doing this. When strange childlike drawings are sent through the door with a videotape, it stirs in Georges a childhood memory of Majid, an Algerian boy who his parents were going to adopt, and that George tried to stop becoming part of the family. When they take the evidence and his suspicions to the police they are told there is nothing the police can do until an offence has been committed. So Georges takes the law into his own hands to make the suspected perpetrator desist from victimising his family. Hidden feels like a culmination (or concentration) of the common themes that prevail through Haneke's body of work. We are invited, as the audience, to join George in becoming voyeur in watching the surveillance, and also to become complicit in Georges pursuit of Majid who he believes is responsible for the surveillance but the perpetrator of the victimisation becomes blurred, as does the (hidden) guilt of Georges previous (and) treatment of Majid, and by extension his nation's treatment of immigrants to France starts to become apparent. Hidden is such a clever and skillful piece of writing by Haneke, and its realisation onto film is a masterpiece, and its critical reception even eclipsed that of The Piano Teacher.
2008 saw the release of Haneke's remake of his 1997 feature Funny Games. Set in the USA and this time starring Tim Roth and Naomi Watts as the ubiquitous George and Anna. The remake is pretty much shot-for-shot as per the original but has brought Haneke's work to a slightly wider audience. Given Haneke's previous films comments on violence, perhaps the needless remake of a needlessly violent film about needless violence, is as 'funny' a comment on society's viewing pleasures are you are likely to see anywhere. The official Funny Games (US) site contains some clips, trailers, downloads and a unique interactive video game.
After the unusual flirtation with Hollywood, 2009 saw the World War 1 set The White Ribbon released to critical acclaim - winning the Palme D'or and receiving a couple of oscar nominations (a few less nominations than the film deserved). Haneke again proved his mastery of modern cinema in producing a dark masterpeice that must surely rank very highly in any list of contemporary cinema. This film did seem to be something of a nuanced departure for Haneke, in that the film appeared much less a rumination on the depiction and portrayal of violence, and much more an exploration of the emotion of violence.
2012 saw Haneke finally embraced by the academy, with the release of Amour, which won Best Foreign Film - and was unlucky not to have walked away with some of the other major prizes to boot. It is masterful film that serves to underline what a tremendous talent for the essence of story Hanke posseses, little wonder that this film opened his work up to a whole new audience.
2013 saw Haneke taking on the world of opera with his well received TV production of Cosi fan tutte which obviously marked a distinct departure from his usual medium.