The Michael Haneke Trilogy Review
Michael Haneke is a true original. No-one else makes films like him and even when, as in Hidden, he is treading on familiar ground, he firmly adds his own stamp to it. The same themes come out time and again – isolation, alienation, the lure and obscenity of violence, the disconnection between people, the impossibility of meaningful communication – but never quite in the same way so that you’re always kept off balance and can’t be sure what he’s going to come up with next.
Most British viewers will be familiar with Haneke’s work from the late 1990s onwards; wildly controversial films such as Funny Games and the remarkable Piano Teacher. However, his career began a decade earlier with The Seventh Continent and continued with two further films -Benny’s Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. Together, these are known as the Glaciation Trilogy.
The work of Michael Haneke has been exhaustively documented on DVD Times in a series of brilliant pieces by my colleague Noel Megahey. There’s no way anything I write on these three films can measure up to his reviews so I refer you to them HERE.
Certainly, each of the films has considerable qualities, although there are times, particularly in the second and third, that one is conscious of applauding individual images and moments rather than feeling impressed by the overall work. This is especially noticeable in the case of Benny’s Video, a film which holds you from scene to scene and sometimes works spectacularly well – Benny sitting down to calmly eat a pot of yogurt shortly after killing the girl is a good example - but never quite comes together as it should. It doesn’t seem right that this film should seem so weirdly aimless, especially when it comes complete with a nasty little bit of moral finger-wagging that should be beneath a director of this stature. However, in the case of 71 Fragments, the, well, fragmented nature of the experience is entirely appropriate and obviously intentional. There are scenes which elicit a strong response and others which seem irrelevant and even boring.
If The Seventh Continent seems the best of the films here, that’s perhaps because it’s the one which seems all of a piece. There’s an intensity which, to me, is absent from the other two films and which links it to Haneke’s later work. It’s certainly the most shocking film in the 3-film box set and the one which has most of that indefinable quality of terror which marks out movies such as Funny Games and Hidden - an ability which Haneke shares with David Lynch, something which makes his latest film’s homage to Lost Highway seem highly appropriate. What I do like very much about Haneke’s work is the surface calmness of his films. Although his overall messages are sometimes off-puttingly didactic, Haneke refuses to indulge in specious moral outrage for its hysterical possibilities. The coldness is present in The Seventh Continent in abundance and that’s one of the things which makes it such a disturbing film – but when you switch off, you might be left wondering just what it was which made you want to bury your head in a cushion and make it go away.
The DVD Release
Tartan’s collection of these films looks like a virtually direct port of the French release which Noel reviewed back in 2005. Even the box art is identical, although translated into English. The real value of the collection, however, is that it represents the first time that these movies have been available on DVD with English subtitles.
The quality of the transfers looks very similar to the screenshot’s in Noel’s review. Each film is presented in an anamorphic 1.78 transfer and they look fine at this ratio, although Noel suggests that it may be incorrect in terms of how Haneke intended them to be seen. All of the films seem to be sourced from excellent prints and they are generally remarkably clean and sharp. There is a fair amount of grain in places, especially in The Seventh Continent, but this is not too much of a problem. Artifacting, thankfully, is minimal and the colours – deliberately toned down and often drab – are excellent throughout. Much the same can be said of the German 2.0 soundtrack which offers crisp and effectiuve two-channel mono.
The extra features are confined to three interviews, one on each disc. Michael Haneke discusses each film in some depth – each of the pieces lasts about twenty minutes – and with impressive insight and eloquence. He is very good on the intricacies of the thought processes behind filmmaking – the decisions which go into each shot and suchlike. He also talks about the reactions to the films and the trilogy as a whole. Sadly, the deleted scenes from Benny’s Video, which appear on the French disc, are not present here. The interviews, like the films, are accompanied by optional English subtitles.
I hope everyone reading this review will go and look at Noel’s pieces which I have referred to as they are the best writing about the films that I have seen. What I can tell you is that if you’ve admired Haneke’s better known work, or just been caught up in the huge success of Hidden, then you will find these hugely satisfying as a way of identifying how his filmmaking has developed over the course of two decades. None of the films is easy viewing but if you’re willing to concentrate and work then they offer immense rewards. Tartan’s set is a good package and is well worth your attention.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 03:48:13