Saturday, August 27, 2011


With an earthquake and a hurricane on the horizon all in the same week, I cant help but think the end is near (relax, I'm just joking...kinda). I'm in somewhat of a post apocalyptic mood right now and naturally I've started thinking about my favorite films that relate to how I'm feeling. 'Mad Max' may be the standard for "post-apocalyptic" films, but there's other great ones out there that deal with the same basic subject. Outside of 'The Road', there haven't been too many good post-apocalyptic films in the "indie" or foreign/"art house" world. I would have never guessed that Michael Haneke, a director i cant help but think has Tarkovsky's same opinion on how; "films should not be entertainment", would've taken a stab at a "genre film". When 'Time Of The Wolf' was released (2002/3), Michael Haneke was no stranger to bleakness. In fact, he kinda embraced it. That seemed to be his "thing". His first film, 'The Seventh Continent', was about a family that commits suicide to escape the monotony of everyday life. And his second & third films; 'Benny's Video' (a film about a boy who kills a girl and videotapes it...just because) and '71 Fragments...' (a film that ends with a college student snapping and shooting up a bank full of people), which made up his "emotional glaciation trilogy", were just as bleak. 'Time Of The Wolf' had the same vibe as all of his previous work, but at least in this one there was a bit of an "escape" or a slight hint of entertainment in the plot: "what if the world was coming to an end?" If you're a fan of 'The Road' then this should be required viewing as these 2 works go hand in hand. Both films center around a family trying to survive after an unexplained disaster turns the world in to a wasteland. But instead of biker gangs wearing feathers & face paint battling Mel Gibson, Haneke gives us a more "realistic" (or depressing) look at what the world would really be like if there was an apocalypse or a major disaster...

these images pretty much convey the overall vibe of the film. Instead of dead bodies and skulls laying around everywhere (like you would probably see in a "studio" film) Haneke paints a more bleak picture as to how the world would look (although at one point in the movie our main characters do come across a large pile of dead bodies)

When we watch stuff like 'Mad Max' or even 'Children Of Men', the subject matter is actually quite serious when you think about it (lol yes, even Mad Max), but we look at those films as fun entertainment (and of course there's no problem with that). However with 'Time Of The Wolf', Michael Haneke kinda steps in as the "party pooper"/"debbie downer" and goes; "guys, a post-apocalyptic world would not be fun or entertaining at all. In fact, watch my movie..."
From the very beginning of the film Haneke makes it very clear where this movie is headed. At the start, we see our family/main characters (led by regular Haneke actor Isabelle Hupert) headed to their country home with supplies to hide out from the this mysterious "apocalypse". At the start of the movie we don't realize how serious things are. But that ends pretty quickly. When the family arrives at their home, a squatter family has already taken it over and in the first 5 minutes of the film, the father of the main family is killed by the father of the squatter family. So right off the back "the man", the character we always expect to lead and be in control of things, has been killed off leaving the mother (Hupert) to look after her family. And unlike other recent films that place a female lead in a tough situation, forcing her to become strong, Hupert stays pretty weak and fragile through out the entire film, and its really her daughter (Eva) that takes control and becomes the backbone of the family in these tough times.

Eventually, Hupert, her 2 children and a stray kid surviving on his own are taken in by a group of survivors, led by a man who abuses his power mostly due to the fact that he's the only person with a gun. And like any Haneke film, we see the ugly side of human beings (even more so in a film like 'Time Of The Wolf', which is essentially about survival and doing what you have to do in order to survive).

the squatter family from the beginning of the film that kills Hupert's husband. Later on in the film we see these characters  again

Like any other Haneke film, we see a lot of the same elements that he explores in all his other works which you can read about here (PINNLAND EMPIRE: THE CINEMA OF MICHAEL HANEKE). A quick spurt of violence which surprises us and makes us pay attention (like cache, funny games and benny's video), nods to the film making styles of some of his favorite directors (Bresson & Tarkovsky), great performances from his child actors, and a not so happy ending.


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