Reviews of The Seventh Continent (1989) and related work

The Seventh Continent (1989Moving picture, 104 minutes)

Michael Haneke (director).

When a family’s only child starts pretending to be blind, the parents worry. When they drive by the site of an accident on the highway, where another family has been destroyed in an instant, the mother weeps. They inform their friends that they will go to Australia, to start a new, less stressful life. They stock up and plan a quiet night in front of good old television.

An indictment of a postindustrial middle-class lifestyle. Haneke’s first feature after the obscure Wer war Edgar Allan?. The family is probably as rational as most. This film starts Haneke’s “trilogy of glaciation”. As of this writing he regrets having called his first three theatrical features this, because there is more going on than just the metaphorical glaciation of social relationships in Austrian (European, Occidental) society, but there is no better unifying title.

moving picture fiction

Benny’s Video (1992Moving picture, 105 minutes)

Michael Haneke (writer-director).

A 14-year-old boy likes videos, renting trashy horror films regularly and recording with his own camera. One thing he’s recorded is how a pig was put to death at a farm where he and his parents vacationed. He has secretly stolen the awkward cylindrical tool used to kill that pig, and one day he invites another fan home, while his parents are away. He shows the tool, daring the girl to trigger it. Days later, he shows his parents a home video by way of explanation as to why he’s shaved off his hair. All of this, perhaps, as a test.

A contribution to the “video nasty” panic. Very skillfully filmed, but the script is relatively weak.

moving picture thematic group fiction

71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994Moving picture, 100 minutes)

Michael Haneke (writer-director).

A text tableau declares that a man will kill three people in a bank, and then himself, at a specified date. A Romanian orphan escapes to Austria because it’s supposed to be a better place for kids. A very caring couple adopts a traumatized girl. An old man calls his daughter, who glances over one day at a worried security guard, whose home life is upset because of a sick child. All the while, a college student is put under pressure by his table tennis coach, and plays various games with his buddy at the dorm. That buddy is also chummy with the soldier who transports drugs to the army’s medical facility. The specified date draws closer.

The inverse of the story archetype where several seemingly unrelated people are connected through the consequences of a single event. Babel (2006) is one example of such a story. 71 Fragments ends at the event, showing almost nothing of the consequences, not even proving that all protagonists were involved, and very little of the reasons for the event. A eulogy for the obscure victims of random acts of violence.

moving picture thematic group fiction