Austria

Synopsis

It is the start of the holidays. Anna, Georg and their young son Georgie travel to their idyllic lakeside summer house. Their neighbours Fred and Eva are already there. They have arranged to play golf together the next day. The weather is superb.

While father and son are rigging up their freschly overhauled sailing boat, Anna prepares supper. Suddenly Peter, a young, evidently well-bred guest of their neighbours, stands at the front door asking Anna for a few eggs, explaining that Eva has started cooking and ran out of eggs. Anny willingly complies with the request. Stopping abruptly, she asks him how he entered their property. Peter replies that there is a hole in the fence which Fred had shown him ...

Director's Statement

For the film viewer, the boundary between real existence and representation has been hard to discern from the outset, and it is precisely this which has endowed film with a major part of its fascination. The oscillation between the disconcerting feeling of taking part in a real happening, and the emotional security of seeing only the depiction of an artificially created or even discovered reality, was what indeed first enabled development of this genre. Violence became domesticated through its representation, and the agreeable shudder of horror was entirely welcome in homeopathic doses. The controlled conjuring up of evil enabled hope that it might be brought under control in reality.
The scene changed with the arrival of television. The documentary element came to the forefront. (After its early beginnings, and in any event as far as acceptance by the audience was concerned, this soon became a marginal area of cinema.)
The speed with which information is transmitted via electronic media, as well as the rapid spread of such media, has led to a change in ways of seeing. The brute power of the impression created by the larger-than-life dimensions of the screen upon a one-off visit to the cinema has been matched and indeed overtaken by the vast mass of impressions and their permanent presence in the living room at home.
lndeed, building on the dramatic and aesthetic forms of cinema, television has changed these forms through permanence of use.
Cinema attempted to counter subjugation by the omnipresence of the electronic media through an enhancement of its own resources, which television - as far as it was technically able - immediately also integrated into its own system.
The compulsion always to go one better led to the permanent paroxysm of the striving for intensity and thus indirectly also to a further blurring of the boundaries between reality and representation. (In terms of the portrayal of violence, the Producers of fictional violence had to compete, using greater visual values, with the sensation of authentic horror. In the battle against this, journalistic ambition lost its last rudiments of respect for the dignity of the victims whom it exposed.) No end to this tendency is in sight - on the contrary: it appears only just to have begun - in the battle for market gains and viewer quotas, every innovation, whether technical or artistic in nature, contributes towards driving it onward.

lt is the form of representation which determines the effect of content. The failing an the part of operators in the media battle in terms of realizing this maxim appears to consist in the fact that, during their striving to coritinually intensify the effect of form, content has become an interchangeable dimension. This applies to violence just as much as to its opposite, to victims of war just as much to the stars of TV series, to cars just as much as to toothpaste. The absolute equivalency of their content, devoid of reality, guarantees universal fictionality of what is shown, and thereby that ardently sought feeling of security an the part of the consumer. The relationship between form and content of classical aesthetics appears to have become obsolete. The ethics of selling have little in common with those of a possible social contract.
A solution to this dilemma cannot be discerned - how could it be otherwise? And yet, what is worth trying?
Assuming the premise that all forms of art reflect the conditions under which they are received, at least in the context of contemporary society, and that they reflect these not merely from the economic aspect of distribution potential, but also that of human dialogue, what does this mean, in the light of the above, for the artefact of media forms? Consternation at the fact that their recipient, the viewer, might degenerate to the point of being an indifferent consumer of interchangeable empty forms, or that he has indeed already thus degenerated, also comprises a utopian element, for it drives one to ask: how can the disconnected dialogue be reinstated, how can I restore to my representation the value of reality which it has lost?
Or, in other words: how do I give the viewer the possibility of indeed perceiving this loss of reality and his own involvement therein, so that he may thereby free himself from being a victim of the medium and become its potential partner?
The question is not: what may I show? But rather: what opportunity do I give the viewer to recognize what is shown for that which it is?
Specifically an the subject of VIOLENCE, the problem is not: how do I show violence, but: how do I show the viewer his own position in relation to violence and its portrayal?

Director's Biography

Born in 1942 in Munich as an Austrian citizen, Michael Haneke studied of Philosophy, Psychology and Theatre in Vienna. From 1967 to 1970 he worked as a playwright for Südwestfunk (ARD), since 1970 he is a freelance director and screenplay writer, and has worked on theatre productions in Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Berlin and Vienna.

Filmorgaphy:
1974 - AFTER LIVERPOOL
1975 - SPERRMÜLL
1976 - DREI WEGE ZUM SEE
1979 - LEMMINGE
1984 - WER WAR EDGAR ALLEN?
1985 - FRAULEIN
1989 - DER SIEBENTE KONTINENT
1991 - NACHRUF FÜR EINEN MÖRDER
1992 - BENNY'S VIDEO
1992 - DIE REBELLION
1994 - 71 FRAGMENTE EINER CHRONOLOGIE DES ZUFALLS
1995/96 - DAS SCHLOSS
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Michael Haneke

Written by: Michael Haneke

Produced by: Veit Heiduschka

Cinematography: Jürgen Jürges

Editing: Andreas Prochaska

Production Design: Christoph Kanter

Costume Design: Lisy Christl

Main Cast: Susanne Lothar (Anna), Ulrich Mühe (Georg), Frank Giering (Peter)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 1997