The essential documentaries on Michael Haneke, including Michael Haneke - My Life (2009/Arte) and 24 Realities per Second: A Documentary on Michael Haneke (2005). This documentaries are recommended as supplemental teaching or research material about the directorial work of Michael Haneke, a filmmaker who will undoubtedly have many more documentaries produced about him.
Michael Haneke, 67, is certainly one of the most important directors of our time. His films about violence and existential human fears are a continuous and almost scientific research about western civilization. Born and raised near Vienna, Haneke grew up as the son of actors and stems from a bourgeois and privileged background. For this intriguing profile Haneke opens - for the first time ever - his universe. The director not only returns to the places of his childhood and youth but he also invites us to join him during the production of his latest film, THE WHITE RIBBON, which won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar nomination in 2010. Actors such as Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche talk about their work with Michael Haneke.
Nina Kusturica, apparently a distant relative of the well-known film director Emir Kusturica, and her long-time collaborator on camera and direction, Eva Testor founded their own production company with their first project revolving around a film director Michael Haneke. Since Haneke had taught at the Vienna Film Academy where both women had been students, the familiarity between subject and filmmakers is apparent as when he plays to the camera, at one point good-humoredly thrusting a script right up to the camera/audience. Jean-Luc Godard’s now-famous dictum “The cinema is truth 24 frames per second” is borrowed for the documentary’s title, and yet right at the start of the film, Haneke adapts both Kustirica and Testor’s title as well as Godard’s dictum by saying, “I always say that film is 24 lies per second at the service of the truth or at the service of the attempt to find the truth.”
The question then becomes whether this documentary reveals the truth about Michael Haneke. The short answer is both yes and no. The liner notes provide information that is not evident in the film such as the fact that the filmmakers followed Haneke (on and off obviously) for a period of two and a half years. He is shown scouting for locations, arriving at one of his screenings where he diplomatically responds to rather pedestrian questions from the audience after the screening, and, as with every director, the questions almost always have to do with his intent in creating a specific meaning to which he, as most directors, replies that he wants spectators to find their own interpretation of the film. There is, as well, an overly long section where he is photographed by a press photographer and their rather clichéed interaction unfolds. All these sections show a director, almost a generic director, and could be edited together for a bonus materials featurette on any Haneke DVD. There are, however, a few revelatory sections which redeem this documentary and luckily place it back on track.
If one is not familiar with Haneke’s work, this documentary will not provide much background on how he has tended to develop characters whose repressed or suppressed emotions explode in stark aggression feeding the modern obsession with cinematic violence. In fact Haneke took home the Grand Prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival for The Piano Teacher, which also won the film’s stars Benoit Magimel and Isabelle Hupert, the Best Actor and Best Actress awards. If one is familiar with Haneke’s work, then several sections resonate clearly, particularly when he candidly discusses his first cinematic experiences as a child, and then later as a student, which produced breaks from illusion. In another section, after becoming particularly frustrated by an actress’ performance (the film is not identified by the filmmakers), he confesses that as a director he does less than he has imagined as an author, and brings up advice given him by his theatre director father about being happy if he achieves 40% of what he imagined.
There is certainly room for a sequel dealing more specifically with his thinking about his creative process and his feelings about the medium itself, having come from television and having shot his last film Caché digitally. There are many topics for him to potentially broach, but in this film we merely get a glimpse of what is there. I must also note that the DVD-R format can be problematic and not play on all DVD players, as this one failed to play on one of the machines on which I tested it.
This documentary is recommended as supplemental teaching or research material about the directorial work of Michael Haneke, a filmmaker who will undoubtedly have many more documentaries produced about him. —Oksana Dykyj, Visual Media Resources, Concordia University, Montreal
“Earlier in the year, Michele Haneke became the 7th director in history to win more than one Palme d’Or at Cannes. The record for most Palme d’Or wins is now a seven-way tie. The writer/director’s work is often enigmatic or experimental, but he’s also crafted stories that plumb the dramatic depths of loving relationships and extensively explored the beauty of music. From The Seventh Continent to Love, he’s made us question our role as viewers, challenged concepts of freedom and security, and did it all by making entertaining films. Some of which involve pig slaughter. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who turned Jean-Luc Godard’s most famous quote upside down”.
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