Thursday, 1 December 2011

Around the World in Eighty Movies - number 6

Country: Austria
Title: Der Siebente Kontinent (The Seventh Continent)
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Birgit Doll, Dieter Berner, Leni Tanzer, Udo Samel
Year: 1989
Running time:104 minutes
Genre: Drama
Notable for: Being the first part of Haneke's 'glaciation trilogy'

After a stint as a film critic and years directing movies for television, the German born Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke made his big screen debut in 1989 with The Seventh Continent. Though his second feature, Benny's Video (1992) (the second part of the loosely aligned 'glaciation trilogy' which was completed in 1994 by 71 Fragments of A Chronology of Chance) created more of an impression on the film-making world, The Seventh Continent contains all of the elements that have since positioned Haneke as one of the most important, and divisive, directors currently working. The icy precision, narrative ambiguity, complex depiction of screen violence, bleak view of contemporary life, disconcerting framing and stately pacing that mark all of Haneke's films combine to relate the tale of a comfortably middle class Austrian family and their unexplained decision to commit suicide after systematically destroying everything they own.

Reportedly inspired by a real life incident, The Seventh Continent hints at the family's extreme behaviour as being driven by a nihilistic hatred of the spiritually empty isolation and futility of life in a late capitalist, consumerist society. As always with Haneke though, there is plenty left to consider, both onscreen and off.

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