Golden Palms, an Oscar, Golden Globes, European and German film awards – few directors have been honored for their work as widely as Michael Haneke. The Austrian filmmaker, now 75, is a living legend.
At the start, nothing pointed to an exceptional career. No one could have predicted that the man who once directed a few TV films for a German broadcaster would be among the very few film directors to win two Golden Palms in Cannes. Followed by an Oscar. And Golden Globes. And almost a dozen European film prizes.
Over the past years, Michael Haneke has been overwhelmed by awards. It wasn’t until he began to work as a director for the big screen in 1989 that he really found his own style.
He has directed 11 movies since then. Unforgotten: his debut “The Seventh Continent,” a movie packed with relentless intensity that borders on the unendurable about a family that deliberately commits suicide. It is utterly disturbing.
His next films are also characterized by glacial intensity and razor-sharp analysis. He appears to have little pity for the protagonists. Michael Haneke tells stories on the screen like a pathologist dissects bodies. “This is what it’s like, take a look,” he seems to be telling the viewer. “Life happens to be just the way I’m showing it to you.”
Distraction and escapism are not his thing, nor is glossy superficiality.
Perception of reality
In 2007, Haneke went to Hollywood to film the remake of his 1997 film “Funny Games” – but not before he had made sure he would also be granted the final cut. No one meddles with the likes of Haneke – that was a precondition for the Austrian director for his US stint. The remake of the psychological thriller is not among the director’s best films. That was perhaps not such a disappointment because in 2013 the German-born Austrian director won an Oscar for “Amour,” the captivating romantic drama about an elderly couple.
A few years before he wining an Oscar, his film about a family in northern Germany before World War I, “The White Ribbon,” made waves at festivals, award ceremonies and at the box offices.
Haneke is one of the very few directors who won Golden Palms at the Cannes Film Festival not just once, but twice. He is bound to be proud of the many honors, but it’s unlikely the director has an eye out for sparkling awards. The intellectual with the keen analytical mind is likely to find more gratification in the enthusiasm of a sophisticated movie audience than in a stroll over the red carpet.
New movie in the works
Hanecke’s new film, “Happy End” – starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Mathieu Kassovitz – is scheduled to be released on October 12 in Germany and October 18 in France. The film tells the story of a couple that faces the European refugee crisis in the northern French town Calais.