Film Review: HAPPY END (France/Germany/Austria 2017) ****

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Happy End Poster
Trailer
A drama about a family set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop.

Director:

Michael Haneke

 

Austrian director Michael Haneke, whose last film in 2012 AMOUR won both the Best Foreign Film Oscar and Cannes Palme d’Or returns with a sequel that continues the exploits of the Laurent family.  Though critics at Cannes were generally unimpressed with HAPPY END, the film is still not without its artistic pleasures.  For one, Haneke still shocks with this film, though on a lighter scale.

HAPPY END can be seen as a film that infuses many of the traits of Haneke’s previous films.  When the film opens, the audience sees what is happening though the recording on a cell phone, the routine of a 12-year old (Fantine Harduin) similar to the video surveillance in Haneke’s film CACHE (HIDDEN).  This 12-year old is not one to be tampered with.  She has a mean streak, spying on her father’s (Matthieu Kassovitz) computer and discovering his affair and poisoning a girl she dislikes at camp and her pet hamster.  This is reminiscent of the power of children in Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON.  The bourgeois French family is held together by Anne Laurent (Isabelle Huppert), the father’s sister.  But suicide is in the mind of Anne’s father, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant).  In Hanake’s first film, THE SEVENTH CONTINENT, the whole family committed mass suicide after a banquet meal.  The dysfunctional family is all reminiscent of FUNNY GAMES in which a family is disrupted by a home invasion.

HAPPY END follows AMOUR where Anne has taken over the family business from Georges.  The business has also just suffered a mishap in which several employees were killed.  The CEO of the company is Anne’s deadbeat son (Franz Rogowski) who is hot-tempered and mentally unstable.  At the same time, Anne is being engaged to be married to her tolerant fiancé (Toby Jones).   All the events are seen from the point of view of the 12-year old, which brings the film to a good focus.

HAPPY END is a film that looks at the entire Laurent family rather than one or two characters as in Haneke’s other films.  It is also lighter and funnier with death often just brushed off.  In the scene when the servants’ daughter is bitten by a dog, Anne arrives with a box of chocolates.

But HAPPY END is serious in its consideration of suicide.  Georges, in a comical scene, asks his tailor of 20 years to help him with getting him a gun or poison to end his life.  Georges has already made one attempt on his own life by driving his car into a tree, but the family and cops have suspicions as the car left no tire brake marks.

The film ends with the wedding celebration of Anne rudely interrupted by her unstable son, Pierre with refugees from a nearby camp in Calais..  Hanake cleverly  places the European migrant crisis into the the film’s plot in the film’s climatic wedding scene .  But Anne is able to deal with him, in a comical, unexpected way.  (She breaks his finger.)  The ending is just as funny and shows that life goes on, happy or not.  What constitutes a HAPPY END, is the question Haneke poses.

HAPPY END flows so smoothly that it demands a second viewing to examine what one might have missed.  The film is shot in French.

Trailer (en Francais): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0hv8I9YbDk

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1997 Movie Review: FUNNY GAMES, 1997

FUNNY GAMES
FUNNY GAMES, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe
Review by Matthew C Holmes

SYNOPSIS:

Two psychotic young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement.

REVIEW:

Austria has given the world a variety of coolness over the years: The city of Vienna, Sacher-torte (jam filled chocolate cake), Mozart, and a tidbit of cinematic insanity called Funny Games.

This film just plain works, from the setup to the final frame, there is an uneasy anticipation that permeates the atmosphere and writer/director Michael Haneke is to be cheered and pelted with small plush toys for his manipulation of both the camera and the watching audience.

So, Anna and Georg are going to spend some time at their vacation home with little Georgie and the dog in tow. Relaxation, music, and sailing are all on the menu, but when Peter and Paul arrive at the house, asking for eggs, everything goes out the window and the true horror of the film begins, and doesn’t ever stop.

The classification of this film is a bit tricky, and I am hesitant to stick it with a strict genre label, in spite of the fact that I have already used the word horror. (see previous paragraph) It is definitely a dramatic film, being that it is filled with moments of drama and little to no overt humor.

It also has thrilling moments, filled with tension and unspoken anticipation. And with two tennis-sweater and white short shorts wearing psychos in the mix, the horror elements become obvious and wonderfully disturbing. Writer/director Haneke has stated frequently that he did not make this to be a horror film but instead a “moralistic comment about the influence of media violence on society”. Ultimately it is all of these and more.
The most compelling and the most bizarre aspect of Funny Games is the half a dozen or so times that the two antagonists “break the fourth wall” or acknowledge the watcher, foregoing the illusion of a purely spectator audience. It is not a frequent occurrence, but it happens enough that the mood remains unbroken and the instance it happens becomes unforgettable.

They are as obvious as the character speaking directly into the camera, as obscure as the two psychos discussing the film’s runtime, and as devilishly subtle as a quick wink into lens when the character thinks you might not be paying attention. These little instances are the real meat of the point that Haneke was trying to make.

Bottom line, Funny Games takes psychological and physical torture to place unseen in film. Honestly, it can be difficult to watch at times, not because it is gory or overtly maniacal, but the sheer magnitude of disquiet and discomfort that pours off of the screen will keep you fidgeting in your seat.

Funny Games has since been remade for English speaking audiences. It was written and directed by Haneke himself and is shot for shot, line by line, exactly the same as the original, still called Funny Games, the only difference being the cast. I suggest trying to seek out the Austrian version if you can, the actors, being unknown in this country, put on a truly convincing and terrifying show as the hapless victims and the gentle psychos.

Do not let this film pass you by.
funny games

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: HAPPY END (France/Germany/Austria 2017) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

HAPPY END.jpgA drama about a family set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop.

Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz

Review by Gilbert Seah

HAPPY END can be seen as a film that infuses many of the traits of Haneke’s previous films. When the film opens, the audience sees what is happening though the recording on a cell phone, the routine of a 12-year old (Fantine Harduin) similar to the video surveillance in Haneke’s film CACHE (HIDDEN).

This 12-year old is not one to be tampered with. She has a mean streak, spying on her father’s (Matthieu Kassovitz) computer and discovering his affair. This is reminiscent of the power of children in Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON. The family is held together by Anne Laurent (Isabelle Huppert), the father’s sister. But suicide is in the mind of Anne’s father, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant).

In Hanake’s first film, THE SEVENTH CONTINENT, the whole family committed mass suicide after a banquet meal. The dysfunctional family is all reminiscent of FUNNY GAMES in which a family is disrupted by a home invasion. All the events are seen from the point of view of the 12-year old, which brings the film to a good focus.

The ending is just as funny and shows that life goes on, happy or not. What constitutes a HAPPY END, is the question Haneke poses.

Trailer (en Francais): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0hv8I9YbDk