Michael H - Profession: Director

Michael H - Profession: Director


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Cat lover and Academy Award winning director Michael Haneke is profiled in Yves Montmayeur's Michael H. Profession: Director by frequent collaborators including Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Béatrice Dalle, and Josef Bierbichler.

The documentary about the filmmaker's career starts with the word "coward" spoken in his 1992 feature film Benny's Video and ends with his statement, that love is a difficult thing and not given to everybody. Yves Montmayeur, who filmed making-of movies behind the scenes, guides us backward from his Academy Award winning film Amour to The Seventh Continent, showing Haneke directing, which often consists of him acting out for his performers to copy. Expect some of the most brutal scenes as clips, together with revealing interviews. Josef Bierbichler, who stars in The White Ribbon states that he, Haneke, always gets the menace right the first time. The documentary ultimately chronicles a provocateur in his quest against indifference and the conventions of an obscene normality. Jean-Louis Trintignant admits that "we [the actors and crew] don't have fun - he [Haneke] is the one who has fun."

Haneke's films lay open existing cruelty, and he does not apologize. Two boys are "playing at slaughtering" in a modern version of a tale by the Brothers Grimm of children playing butcher, a tale the Grimms themselves omitted in later editions. Benny's Video picks up where they left off.

A close-up of Haneke's eye for film turns into a shot of the director at the sink in the bathroom. Could this be in his home? Did Montmayeur get such private access? Of course not. We are on the set of Amour and Jean-Louis Trintignant receives directions on how to shuffle from the bathroom to the corridor in a nightmare sequence. Haneke calls himself a craftsman, Trintignant calls him a genius, but one who can be a terror on set.

The documentary moves backward in time, mostly, from film to film in reverse order, and we learn a lot about what Haneke says he doesn't like. For example, being photographed. Needless to say, to anyone who reads this, he hates "bad questions" about his films. No auto-interpretation, ever! While he scolds Montmayeur, a cat walks past, the only animal that's safe in his oeuvre. Birds, dogs, horses - they rarely make it through a Haneke film alive. The tough scene with the rooster in Caché is shown in full in the documentary - Montmayeur is no more protective of us than his subject is.

Trying to trick Haneke into revealing interpretation about White Ribbon, and calling it a German film about German history, after a number of French language films, prompts the Munich-born creator to call himself a control freak. "I enjoyed making it in German," he says, because he enjoyed knowing everything going on around him on set. Susanne Lothar, in costume as the midwife, tells the camera, how good her director is at "seeing what's wrong". She likes that his method is direct and that he "isn't diplomatic."

An interlude shows Haneke as teacher, giving acting lessons at the University of Vienna. He uses Chekhov with students and he can't sit still.

"Truth is a matter of point of view," he says, and in a variation of a Lenin quote, "trust is good, but verification is better."

In a car, he opens up about "super-idiotic offers from Hollywood," and scripts sent to him about "a father and son in the jungle, fighting bears and lions." They act as if this were the perfect vehicle for him, it seems.

"You have to be Buñuel to do dreams."

The horror of Funny Games can be explained by means of direction. While the boys were acting comedy, the others were playing the real. The result is revealing and terrifying, despite the clear fictional quality because "the complete indifference to suffering is disturbing."

A visual psychopath is reassuring, and the viewer is always the director's victim.

Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2013
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An exploration of the work of Michael Haneke.

Director: Yves Montmayeur

Writer: Yves Montmayeur

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Béatrice Dalle, Michael Haneke, Isabelle Huppert, Susanne Lothar, Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Year: 2013

Runtime: 60 minutes

Country: Austria, France

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