Spring­time for Haneke

The Aus­trian mae­stro has once again trans­posed one of his Euro dra­mas to the US, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

JUST A FEW short years ago a pro­ject such as this would have seemed in­con­ceiv­able. Michael Haneke, the aus­tere Aus­trian di­rec­tor of Hid­den and Funny Games, has reshot The White Rib­bon, his un­touch­able 2009 his­tor­i­cal melo­drama, in English with largely main­stream (though dis­pro­por­tion­ately Ger­manic) movie stars. It’s also in 3D. Der mann ist geis­teskrank, ja? Not nec­es­sar­ily.

In re­cent months, two other high­brow Ger­man-speak­ing direc­tors have un­veiled se­ri­ous projects util­is­ing the 3D process. Wim Wen­ders has given the world Pina, a dance doc­u­men­tary, and Werner Her­zog de­liv­ered Cave of For­got­ten Dreams, a study of an­cient cave paint­ings. Re­mem­ber also, that, just three years ago, Haneke re­made Funny Games in English. If any­thing, the con­cept seems too ob­vi­ous.

Fear not. Haneke has re­tooled the pro­ject with enor­mous in­ge­nu­ity – redi­rect­ing at­ten­tion from the film’s id to its su­per-ego – and cre­ated a mas­ter­piece whose tena­cious psy­cho-sor­cery ex­ceeds even that of the dis­tin­guished orig­i­nal.

Re­lo­cated to 1970s Cleve­land, the new film, again a study of chil­dren re­act­ing against parental to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism, nec­es­sar­ily jet­ti­sons the source ma­te­rial’s con­nec­tions to the Nazi regime, but its im­plied crit­i­cism of com­ing Amer­i­can Christo-Fas­cism is at least as dev­as­tat­ing.

The big­gest (and most wel­come) sur­prise is that Haneke, not nor­mally at home to pop­ulism, has en­gaged with the 3D tra­di­tion and con­cluded that the process is at its best when en­hanc­ing the flight of hurtling ob­jects.

Not since pun­ters ducked at the on­com­ing train in L’Ar­rivée d’un train en gare de La Cio­tat have a film’s ac­tion se­quences in­truded so con­spic­u­ously into the au­di­to­rium. Tim­ber from the burn­ing barn crashes to­wards the hud­dling

Fire and brim­stone: Val Kilmer’s barn comes to an eye-pop­ping bad end

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