Monday, 4 February 2013

The Seventh Continent [1989]

Austrian provocateur Michael Haneke made an incredibly assured debut with The Seventh Continent as he managed to clearly establish the stylistic preferences and artistic choices that would distinctly identify his future works. The true story of a Viennese family that committed suicide en masse was the inspiration behind this harrowing and deeply disturbing film. In an audacious narrative choice, instead of showing what led them to the act, he chronicled two seemingly random days, a year and two years, respectively, prior to the incident, and finally the fateful event when they clinically destroyed everything in the house before killing themselves. The first two days, that show the mundane routine activities of Georg (Dieter Berner), a mid-ranking but ambitious professional, his wife Anna (Birgit Doll), who runs a small business with her psychologically troubled brother, and their cute little daughter Eva, had an eerie feel about them despite Haneke being careful enough not to divulge any specific issue with them, but for a few troubling hints strewn around. On the whole, however, we are presented with the lives of a seemingly well-to-do family. Consequently, when they finally do what they do – particularly the brutal ransacking of the house, it was shocking and intensely disconcerting. Haneke imbued a near-Bressonian touch through the stark tone and minimalistic audio-visual portrayal, which reminded me of his acclaimed later film Cache. There were a number of moments when only the limbs and torsos of the actors are shown, and adjacent scenes were often punctuated by few seconds of black screen – aspects which, at a subliminal level, added to the sense of disquietude and disorientation.

Director: Michael Haneke
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Family Drama
Language: Austrian
Country: Austria


Sam Juliano said...

Yes, Haneke's patented style and dark thematics took hold in the very first effort, which you have appraised with insight and eloquence as always.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam for the kind appreciation. Its always fun to see from where it all started for any filmmaker, if you know what I mean :)