Time of the Wolf: (People)

May 24, 2009

Time of the Wolf/Le temps du loup
Directed & Written by Michael Haneke
Starring Isabelle Huppert
2003, Bavaria Film, 113 minutes.

AM WOLF. R HUNGRY!!Of the handful of Micheal Haneke flicks I've seen, Time of the World stands out with the most tangible message. The communication is straightforward without compromising Haneke’s directorial style and it does not emphasize the voyeuristic element of some of his recent stuff, like Cache and Funny Games, yet like those remains mostly a character-based tale.

The film follows a family through an apocalyptic disaster scenario but ignores the specific details and cause of the disaster/crisis/environmental event itself and instead explores the desperate, impoverished social interactions of the formerly upper-middle-class. It’s the atypical disaster movie, where instead of indicating a message through the variables of a typical horror story (i.e. the social commentaries of George Romero via zombies, or the horror westerns of John Carpenter set in man-made wastelands), the film-makers have chosen to focus upon the narrative of a single family struggling emotionally versus the off-screen calamity. On the surface the themes may seem cliche, man is his own worst enemy, etc. but it really presents in a refreshing method.

In the DVD interviews with director Haneke and lead actress Isabelle Huppert, they discuss respectively, the role of communication and self-exposure in modern society. Society, Haneke says, functions based upon communication — a lack of communication is terrorism. This is a theme of a great deal of his movies, where individuals destroy themselves or become catatonic and estranged from their inability to intimately share or bond with others , especially amongst the cloistered wealthy Euro-American elite.

Huppert (who is pretty hot for her age and on-screen most of the time and is in a lot of depressing European movies, including other ones by Michael Haneke which may or may not be about affairs, and thereby critically acclaimed in France) points out that the film is also about social nakedness. Everyone is the same in a crisis (especially at the end of the world) and is without the usual space and solitude that allows us to nurture outward social masks and private indulgences (illusions and self-woven narratives) of character. In crisis or apocalypse, we are all exposed to one another — forced into a brutally honest community, where justice is simply group survival (as per usual, hahaha!) and who bands together the best. Specifically she says there is nothing to hide at the end of the world, and from there we can start over.

And for a high-strung technophobe/polemic like me, that implies a lot of interesting things about the reach of the internet and the way we freely share our interior, guarded personalities on public forums and webpages, which are created for all to see because they are made in a solitary environment where we do not see the community react to them personally. This is an maybe an outlying connection within the film given the role of the formerly detached urban elite, and disaster as the great equalizer. People willfully expose themselves to others, but these personal interactions in “meatspace” are too invested in emotional control and willpower to allow us to express our true feelings (uh, or something…). What we can write is not what we can say, etc.

Although Haneke’s films are often very brutal and have their blunt moments, I don’t think they’re necessarily negative or pessimistic. Their narratives often use cinematic conventions that are slightly too abstract for the casual move-goer (and yet there’s somehow a large fan-base for David Lynch…), such as with his voyeuristic elements or seemingly pointless drawn-out still shots. But Hanneke’s rewarding moments are when he manages to capture succinct illusions which seem very real, not pandering idealism like most films. Which is really what you’d want in an artistic vision — total fascism! And never mind the rarity of this in cinema, where making movies is a job before it’s any artistic venture.

Also — good somber visuals (it’s Austria) and he doesn’t cheat and use music for every freakin’ scene, unlike almost any other celebrated, working director.

@ Amazon
@ IMDb

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