> Volume 6 > Number 23


Michael Haneke

Isabelle Huppert
Béatrice Dalle
Patrice Chéreau
Rona Hartner

Release: 25 Jun. 04

Time of the Wolf


Having played the reactionary sadist Michael Haneke in his youth, making a name for himself by getting squeamish audiences to walk out and fanboys to celebrate, the director of Benny’s Video and Funny Games is evidently maturing into the type of assured filmmaker as Lars von Trier has been. Though his failure-success ratio is abysmal, with Time of the Wolf, Haneke has had three triumphs in a row, and each with its own level of responsible wisdom. Certainly some will still remark that he’s up to his old games with both The Piano Teacher and Time of the Wolf because they are both fairly tough to sit through (his other success, Code Unknown, is especially remarkable for his restraint). But he’s making points that are not overshadowed by the film’s incessant tone, and the final impression is not that he’s using the audience for his sadistic pleasure, but is actually trying to get them to understand humanity at the raw levels he’s attuned to.

Time of the Wolf stars eerily enough, emulating Funny Games as a family of four arrives at their holiday home to find weapon-toting strangers who are intent on causing them great pain. When the film leaves this setting, as ice queen Isabelle Huppert takes her kids around a European wasteland, its post-industrial sprawl razed to its serene, rustic begins, it’s as if Haneke is himself turning his back to those years of brutality he projected in his early films.

As the escaping family makes their way through this countryside and into horrific communes, the pangs of commercialism are shown as being at fault. Haneke’s camera grazes over these insinuations with a distant shrug -- he’s only willing to document, not to answer. It’s a harrowing work, and its virtues come at a deep, insidious price of anguish on the part of the audience. But unlike before, Haneke seems to be telling us what evils are already before us, not the contrived tribulations of his early works. He’s found hope in anarchy, where before he was only willing to laugh at our hopefulness in the face of his anarchy

©2004, David Perry,, 4 June 2004