Time Of The Wolf

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

When something deeper than shocking occurs without warning, it cartwheels life into a place where there are no certainties. This might be called a state of anarchy, but writer/director Michael Haneke sees it through the cold eye of reason.

Anne (Isabelle Huppert) and her family arrive at their holiday cottage in the woods to find another family there. The man has a gun and threatens them. Anne's husband tries to talk to him and is shot. Anne and the two children are forced out onto the road with a bicycle, a suitcase and a bag of snacks.

They go to farms and houses in the village and find them empty, or inhabited by solitary, paranoid people who won't let them in. Slowly, it becomes plain that the world has changed. There has been a revolution or a natural disaster and everything that once was taken for granted, such as electricity and the telephone, is no longer available. Horses and water are the essential necessities for survival now.

The film is beautifully shot in the Dogme style. There is no attempt made to explain the new realities. A train passes, but does not stop. The country roads are empty. Anne's children - Eva (Anais Demoustier), who is teenage, and Ben (Lucas Biscombe), who is younger - are traumatised but stoical. The madness that accompanies apocalyptic scenarios is missing. The atmosphere at the station, where they find others crammed into a warehouse, is closer to what you might imagine as a holding zone for concentration camp victims.

Haneke remains true to his vision of how the world would be. He makes no concessions to plot, or imagination. It is easy to admire his skill as a filmmaker, but harder to enjoy the experience.

"When you can't talk to anyone, it's like suffocating," Ben says. This is realism from the other side of hope, where decency is frayed and friendships are fleeting.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2003
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An apocalyptic scenario as lived by a one-parent family in the French countryside.
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Director: Michael Haneke

Writer: Michael Haneke

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Anais Demoustier, Lucas Biscombe, Hakim Taleb, Beatrice Dalle, Patrice Chereau, Rona Hartner, Maurice Benichou, Olivier Gourmet

Year: 2003

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Austria/Germany

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