Seth’s Favorite Film Discoveries of 2022

These are not new films released in 2022, but older pictures that I finally watched this year and have stayed with me. There are a lot of familiar names here that I thought I understood, only to realize I did not. Now, I do and it has enriched my life as a result. I was so elated to partake in the work of such wonderful old masters and look forward to filling in more gaps in my film knowledge in 2023.

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Movie Review – Cache [Hidden]

Cache [Hidden] (2005)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Cache is a film nestled in modern French history, specifically the Algerian War. The French right-wing was becoming aggressive towards Algeria in the early 1960s. Algeria had been a colony since the mid-1800s, and its citizens had become tired of their abuses at the hands of the French. In October of 1961, the FLN, a nationalist political party in Algeria, called on their emigres in Paris to participate in a march. The police prefect Maurice Papon, who served in Vichy France, called on the police to take aggressive action against these protestors. The result was 200 Arab people being drowned or shot to death in the Seine. French authorities hid evidence and suppressed investigations in the wake of the massacre. At the time, only three deaths were admitted. By 1998, when reporters were given access to archives, the total death toll became clear.

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Movie Review – Time of the Wolf

Time of the Wolf (2003)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Throughout his career, Michael Haneke has been interested in how the media will present information or events versus what experiencing those same things would be like. He’s often pointed to the screen as a filter that blocks humanity’s perceptions of the actual emotional weight of trauma. Frequently Haneke protects his audience from the sight of violence but uses sound to make sure they do not forget the pain inflicted on a person. Time of the Wolf reads as a response to apocalypse-porn popularized by director Roland Emmerich starting with the blockbuster Independence Day. These ends of the world are almost always bombastic, full of massive explosions, and ending with humanity triumphing somehow. Haneke refuses to leave it like that, and so he went about making his own film.

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Movie Review – The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher (2001)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

With the new millennium came changes to Michael Haneke’s focus & themes. In his earlier works (The Seventh Continent, Benny’s Video, Funny Games), the director was concerned with critiquing the Austrian middle class and exploring a meta-commentary on our relationship to violence as depicted in the media. His first and only theatrical adaptation of a novel would be The Piano Teacher. The book was penned by Elfriede Jelinek, whose work is considered to be very angry and challenging in its stream of conscious-like prose. Nevertheless, Haneke manages to adapt her book by delivering it with his signature cold neutrality, and it certainly works to both tell the story of a very emotionally troubled woman while also showing sensitivity to explicit violence. Haneke does not want to hide violence from us; instead, he’s interested in communicating it in unexpected and powerful ways.

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Movie Review – Funny Games

Funny Games (2007)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Following its showing at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, a panel was held for Funny Games. Director Michael Haneke and his actors fielded questions from the press about his movie. If you are subscribed to the Criterion Channel, you can watch it. Over 45 minutes, Haneke became amusedly frustrated over the journalists and critics’ seeming inability to understand the subtext of his film. Unlike David Lynch, Haneke didn’t keep the greater meaning of his work close to his vest and was very explicit. He kept reiterating that the film is not concerned with the pathology of its antagonists or anything else that was surface level. Funny Games is a film experience in which the viewer is interrogated about the very nature of violence & entertainment. 

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Movie Review – Benny’s Video

Benny’s Video (1993)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Reality in our current period has become a grotesquely malleable element. QAnon cultists talk about wild conspiracies with such confidence that it seems to come from an entirely different dimension. The State Department gins up war with Russia and China in parallels with the fabrication and lack of substantial evidence needed to justify such actions. Everywhere you go in America, you are bombarded by marketing attempting to warp your sensibilities to believe unnecessary consumption is the answer to your existential woes. The screen acts as a filter for your emotional response. You can pause, rewind, skip, and because of that, you never really have to reflect or engage. This is the world Michael Haneke saw in Austria all the way back in 1993, and it hasn’t gotten any better.

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Movie Review – The Seventh Continent

The Seventh Continent (1989)
Written by Michael Haneke and Johanna Teicht
Directed by Michael Haneke

Human existence has clearly reached a terminus point. The current world order is ending, and it’s scary not knowing how things will shape up next. In the face of climate collapse, social disorder, and a nightmare pandemic, it’s near impossible to see anything substantively hopeful in the future. My personality is not often turning and burying myself in escapist fare. Yeah, I read comic books regularly and am not averse to a dopamine-inducing video game, but ultimately I need to look into the void and see what lies within. Michael Haneke has been a filmmaker that has never hesitated to show us the worst of humanity, particularly the comfortable aloof middle class. He views them as both perpetrators of horrendous evil and victims of their own cruelty. For Haneke, an exploration of modernity and the senseless violence that accompanies it links us to our history and points to a dark future should we remain on this path.

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Movie Review – Amour

Amour (2012)
Written and Directed by Michael Haneke

Anne and Georges are retired music teachers enjoying the fruits of their labor, visiting former pupils who have excelled in their craft. They have a tense relationship with their daughter Eva and her English husband, but it’s not bad. Life is a beautiful natural thing. Then one morning Anne goes silent during breakfast, unresponsive to Georges’ pleas. She comes to after a moment, but the couple seeks out the opinion of their doctor. It turns out that Anne suffered a stroke, and her body will slowly degenerate as a result. We watch as Anne goes from being a vibrant, joyful octogenarian to becoming a person who is losing both their physical abilities but additionally the faculty of their mind. Georges is ever dutiful taking care of his wife and making a promise never to send her off to a home, but to keep her in their home.

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Movie Review – Happy End

Happy End (2017)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

happy end

Teenager Eve Laurent is suddenly thrust into the home of her estranged father and his family after her mother overdoses on antidepressants and ends up comatose. Thomas Laurent, her father, is married to his second wife who has just had their first child together. He’s also involved in an obscene affair with another woman. Anne, Eve’s aunt, owns a construction firm that has come under litigation after an onsite accident has left one of the workers on the verge of death. Anne’s son, Pierre works as the foreman on the site and appears to have emotional issues that might have led to the dangerous conditions on site. Finally, there is the patriarch Georges who is slipping into dementia and contemplating suicide to avoid what this condition will do to his mind, notably forgetting his late wife. Did I mention this is a dark comedy?

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Import Fridays – The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon (2009, dir. Michael Haneke)

Cruel parents create cruel children. That is the moral of Austrian director Michael Haneke’s latest film, The White Ribbon. The object of the title is a device used as part of a technique implemented by the village minister to remind his children of purity. It’s no coincidence that children in a German village, whom will be adults when the rise of the Nazi party occurs, are shown wearing white armbands symbolizing purity. Haneke is not at work to simply tell the story of the psychological birth of the Nazi movement, rather he want to study and dissect what motivates terrorists and those who kill from a nationalist motivation.
In a small northern German village, about a year before World War I begins, a series of premeditated attacks occur. What sets things off is when the village doctor is thrown from his horse as the result of an near invisible wire strung across his property. Authorities find the wire vanishes over night and no one saw anybody tie it up there. The film is very fragmented and jumping from household to household, focusing on the interactions of parents and children. Like most Haneke films, he keeps things very ambiguous. He knows what to state outright and what to hint at.
Someone burns down a barn. A child is murdered. Another child is beaten severely and strung up in the town’s sawmill. I was reminded of Haneke’s 2005 picture, Cache, where the protagonist is presented with a mystery of someone filming the exterior of his flat for hours and hours, then mailing him the tape. Haneke cultivates mystery, presents us with plausible suspects, and then ends the film. A very similar technique is used here, so if you are someone who likes things wrapped neatly, this isn’t a film for you. However, if you enjoy philosophically contemplating the nature of evil and acts of tragedy visited on seemingly normal, undeserving people this is a fascinating picture.
German society at this time lives and dies on hierarchy and adherence to strict religious and moral tenets. In life you serve the land baron and thresh his fields, you go to church, and you never step out of place. So, for such chaotic acts to begin in the village is a cause for the erosion of propriety. As Haneke peers under the roofs of the villagers we quickly see no one submits to this system out of honest belief, they submit because they are beaten into it. What Haneke has done is make a film much less about the specifics of German society and about our own contemporary global culture of cruelty.