domenica 24 gennaio 2010

Michael Haneke, A suitable case for treatment

I can understand why the jury of the last Cannes Film Festival assigned to The White Ribbon by Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke the Palme D’or, but I have to confess that I don’t agree with them.
I had postponed for months the vision of this movie and I finally decided to watch it last week just because I felt almost guilty, as a cinema blogger, not to have seen one of the so considered best movies of 2009. I always had troubles with Haneke, with his stories, with what he says in his interviews. In the past, I only made one exception, and I went to see The Piano Teacher with Isabelle Huppert. A very good movie, as well as The White Ribbon is an incredible one, but my problems with Haneke, well, that ones remain intact.

The White Ribbon’s story is set in a rural German village around 1913 and it is narrated by a voice-off, the one of the village school’s teacher who, at the time, was a young man in his early thirties.
The apparently quite life of the place is broken by a series of dramatic events: the doctor has a bad accident with his horse provoked by a wire somebody stretched in his garden, during a festivity the little son of the baron is found tied up and beaten, another little child risks to die because the window of his bedroom has been deliberately left open in the cold winter, a fire is set in the baron’s property, and then the midwife’s young son (affect by down’s syndrome) is found tortured and with his eyes burnt.
Who is beyond all these awful facts? This is the question in all people’s mind, but there won’t be an answer. The only one who got a clue, the midwife, goes to town to tell the police but she will never come back, and his son, as well as the doctor (the midwife’s lover) and his family, will disappear. The First World War is around the corner, more terrible events are about to break out and the young teacher, who is going to get married, will leave the village forever.

The White Ribbon is a rigorous, perfectly crafted, sumptuous (oh, those magnificent black and white images!) movie. Haneke is a master in creating, sequence by sequence, a horror tale. Behind the smooth surface, behind the figures that should bring comfort, confidence, and love, there are hidden monsters (just to make a couple of examples: the doctor is abusing his young daughter, the vicar is obsessed with integrity and unable to show any kind of affection to his children). And the children? Well, this is the scariest thing of all: the children are/will be the results of this education, of their parents’ behaviour, of that oppressive atmosphere.
Is Hitler, by any chance, one of the villagers’ surnames? I’m sure nobody will be surprised to hear that, in the end.

The real trouble with Haneke, for me, is that he has what I considered the worst defect a film-maker (and a human being, generally speaking) could have: he is cold. He is detached from what he is saying. He put a distance between him and his images. He doesn’t show any kind of pity towards the human beings he is talking about.
Ok, I got the picture: we are all monsters, human nature is evil, violence is within ourselves and sooner or later will get out and ruin our lives. Well, I think this is insane and extremely uninteresting.
Mike Leigh, for instance (God bless him!), has always shown the bleakness and the misery of human nature in his movies, but he does that with compassion and affection. This is why his movies can save us.
In Haneke's movies there is no salvation, no catharsis, no hope, just condemnation and coldness.
In The White Ribbon there is the most terrifying dialogue between a man and a woman I’ve ever seen in a movie: the doctor and the midwife insult each other in such a bad way, using words filled with such deep hatred, while they don’t move, while they remain still. It is really an unbearable scene to look at.

Haneke once said that "A feature film is twenty-four lies per second".
If it so, why don't you tell us sweet ones next time, Michael?

8 commenti:

  1. stefania petrotta24 gennaio 2010 18:48

    Hai messo nero su bianco esattamente i miei sentimenti in proposito. Sono uscita dal cinema "arresa" e insoddisfatta, nonostante regia, fotografia, protagonisti, etc. fossero d'eccellenza. Ma sì, si tratta proprio di questo! Un malessere che mi pervadeva ma che non riuscivo a cogliere, ad esprimere a parole. E tu l'hai fatto nel migliore dei modi! Brava bambina!

  2. Grazie, Stefania! Io quando sono uscita dal cinema sono andata diretta a ubriacarmi. Mi sembrava l'unica soluzione possibile... per dire...

  3. ciao Zazie, it is good to be back and reading your blog. I saw an aussie film called Bran nue dae whilst home. A big of fun. carla x

  4. Sempre nero Haneke ma devo dirti che questo film mi ha messo meno in disagio rispetto ad altri come La Pianiste per esempio... Sarà l'estetismo delle immagini...

  5. interesting critique! i've been wanting to see this movie, too, as well as "Funny Games", but i'm a little scared.

    after reading this, i'd like to know what you think of Lars Von Trier's movies.

  6. Dear Josephine,
    I'm a big fan of Lars Von Trier, even if I don't love all his movies. I think his cinema is super interesting. "Breaking The Waves" is one of my favourite movies of all time.
    He is a tortured soul... but he's not cold!
    Thanks for reading my blog.

  7. fra avevo scritto un commento bellissimo e molto profondo in cui rivelavo la mia sensibilità a temi come il rapporto genitori figli ma non sono riuscito a trasmetterlo.... mah...

  8. insomma dicevo che il rapporto genitori figli non può essere accademico come nel film, ma i genitori devono essere istintivi nella relazione con i figli. Devono volergli bene e comunicare.

    ecco ho riassunto in tre righe quello che prima avevo teorizzato in 40 righe. forse è meglio così.

    comunque la figura del pastore ( di anime) è eccezionale. Mai visto interpretare così bene neanche nella vita reale il malessere e l'agonia di un uomo che vuole perseguire l'ortodossia nell' educazione dei figli e ottiene l'opposto. Nonostante il più piccolo gli riveli cosa sia l'amore filiale, istinto e non premeditazione non ha l' intelligenza emotiva per capirlo.


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