Michael Haneke  

European, controversial and thought-provoking director of disturbing movies that is hard to peg but often and bleakly explores themes involving various problems with modern society and their effect on individuals. Likes to raise questions with very understated and deep character studies that often erupt in violence, explore various intellectual ideas, and confront or even abuse audiences with hard-edged film-making. In his early movies, characters are often emotionally detached due to some aspects of modern living, and resort to cold acts of violence or disturbed behaviour.

Of Some Interest

Benny's Video  
Not really an extreme or graphic movie compared to most horror movies about killers, but Haneke manages to find an unusually and mentally disturbing angle to this story. In other words, this is only disturbing by art-house standards, especially since it deals with a seemingly average family and teenager. Benny is emotionally detached, practically a psychopath, living in a comfortable modern home with emotionally challenged parents. Benny lives his life through cameras, even watching the view from his window via a camera. He watches footage of a pig being killed repeatedly and obsessively that seems to offer him something exciting beyond his cold existence. He invites a girl over as an experiment, with jolting, horrifyingly cold results. His parents are not equipped to handle this development, his father clinically analyzing the situation and suppressing emotions, and his mother breaking out in bursts of repressed distress. The lack of any sort of treatment accumulates to another emotionally brutal and upsetting ending. This theme has been explored dozens of times by Hisayasu Sato, but Haneke gives it his own clinically bleak touch in the form of a subtly brutal character study.

Castle, The  
Haneke's careful and faithful cinematic adaptation of Kafka's book manages to capture the surreal, paranoid, mysterious, existential, stifling atmosphere. A cheerless man hired to survey a castle is given the run-around by the locals, befriending some and fighting everyone else, wading through absurd rules, hierarchies, social obstructions, inefficiencies and finding that he never progresses closer to his goal. The movie even jumps between scenes and ends unfinished like the book.

Funny Games  
A Brechtian, disturbing psychological study of sadism and violence and their entertainment values. Two men invade the home of a vacationing family and psychologically attack them, playing intelligently sadistic games with their politeness and social expectations until it escalates to intense trauma and violence. At the same time, the movie tries to make Brechtian statements about the audience's participation in such entertainment and questions our roles while winking at us. Events are rewound in surreal fashion to remind us that this is a movie, and the actual violence is teasingly off-screen, as if the sadists were playing with us instead of their victims. This may or may not be contempt for the audience, but, rather than provoke thought, it only ends up quite pointless because, since they have no motives or point to make, we don't get a chance to figure out our own motives for watching the movie in the first place except to figure out whether the movie has a point. Pointlessly remade word-for-word as 'Funny Games U.S.' for the sole reason to avoid subtitles.

Pianiste, La (The Piano Teacher)  
A disturbing and complex character study of a woman in very advanced stages of repression, flirting with sado-masochism and tyrannized by her mother, but actually yearning for real affection. Her desires manifest themselves in very twisted and repulsive ways and her defensive world falls apart when a young man tries to break down her walls in a teasing, superficial way. She tries to open up to him in her twisted way but only succeeds in pulling him down into her sick, confused world. An intelligent film that can be interpreted on a couple of levels, one also symbolic: her desires, psychology and reactions portrayed through her world of music and students.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents