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Michael Haneke's Cinema

Michael Haneke's Cinema: The Ethic of the Image

Catherine Wheatley
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    Michael Haneke's Cinema
    Book Description:

    Existing critical traditions fail to fully account for the impact of Austrian director, and 2009 Cannes Palm d'Or winner, Michael Haneke's films, situated as they are between intellectual projects and popular entertainments. In this first English-language introduction to, and critical analysis of, his work, each of Haneke's eight feature films are considered in detail. Particular attention is given to what the author terms Michael Haneke's 'ethical cinema' and the unique impact of these films upon their audiences.

    Drawing on the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant and Stanley Cavell, Catherine Wheatley, introduces a new way of marrying film and moral philosophy, which explicitly examines the ethics of the film viewing experience. Haneke's films offer the viewer great freedom whilst simultaneously imposing a considerable burden of responsibility. How Haneke achieves this break with more conventional spectatorship models, and what its far-reaching implications are for film theory in general, constitute the principal subject of this book.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-546-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Declaration
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. A Note on the Titles
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    This book began life as a result of the peculiar response that I became aware of having when watching the films of Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke. I first saw one of Haneke’s films in 1999, and the experience of watchingFunny Gameswas a distinctly unpleasant one for me: over the course of the viewing I was overwhelmed by a feeling of unease, of discomfort. I wanted to leave the cinema, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so – such was my fascination with the film. Subsequent viewings of Haneke’s other works were characterised by a similar ambivalence on my...

  8. Chapter 1 The Last Moralist?
    (pp. 14-50)

    In an essay he contributed to a compendium on the films of Robert Bresson, Michael Haneke describes the reaction of the audience at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival to the decision to award Bresson that year’s Special Jury Prize. As Bresson, called up by Orson Welles, stepped on to the stage, ‘an acoustic battle broke out between those booing and those acclaiming him’.¹

    Haneke’s description of the event might just as easily be applied to the audience’s reaction when Haneke himself was called up to receive his prize for Best Director at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival: some audience members...

  9. Chapter 2 Negotiating Modernism: Der Siebente Kontinent, Benny’s Video, 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls
    (pp. 51-77)

    The theory of film spectatorship up to the present day is a historical dialectic where André Bazin’s realism emphasises a range of possibilities in cinema that are not foregrounded by Eisenstein’s formalism; and apparatus theory, along with political modernist theory, brings together aspects of the two earlier positions so that realism now becomes ideology and the alternative to ideology lies at the extremes of cinema, in the extremes of realist principles or in the kind of disruption produced by the formalist school, used not for the sake of propaganda but as a way of breaking the realist illusion, as we...

  10. Chapter 3 The Ethics of Aggression: Funny Games
    (pp. 78-112)

    Michael Haneke’s critical aesthetic is strongly grounded in political modernist thought and counter-cinematic practice, his early films in particular drawing on modernist models of distanciation and reflexivity in order to forestall the pleasure drive and thereby allow the spectator to engage rationally with the filmic text. These modernist structures allow the spectator an enhanced position of knowledge about the cinematic medium, but they remain concerned with the medium itself, and do not force the spectator to consider their own position in relation to the image. That is, the spectator becomes aware of the film as a product, but they are...

  11. Chapter 4 Emotional Engagement and Narrativity: Code inconnu, La Pianiste, Le Temps du loup
    (pp. 113-152)

    The reactions that arise from the spectator’s awareness of being manipulated by Haneke‘ s film have distinct implications for their moral response toFunny Games. What Haneke achieves through his aesthetics of aggression and the unpleasurable feelings that it gives rise to is to position the spectator as the film’s real protagonist: the narrative content of the film becomes significant only in relation to the viewer’s situation. In this respect,Funny Gamesdoes not prompt a purely intellectual response but a very personal, felt experience, making the action on screen relevant to the spectator in such a way that they...

  12. Chapter 5 Shame and Guilt: Caché
    (pp. 153-187)

    In the development of Michael Haneke’s model for positioning the spectator ethically,La PianisteandFunny Gamescan be seen to represent two high points. In the case of each of these films, the film viewer is coopted into a position of moral spectatorship through the resolution of three overlapping frameworks, which consist of a ‘benign’ first-generation modernism (that dominates the Austrian trilogy), aimed purely at a negation of the dominant (American) mainstream cinematic convention; an ‘aggressive’ second-generation modernism, aimed at calling the spectator’s attention both to the film as construct and to themself as consumer; and a system of...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 188-194)

    In the introduction to his book on Michael Haneke’s films, Alexander Horwath suggests that Umberto Eco’s categories for thinking about mass culture and mass society – apocalyptic and integrative – provide a useful method for thinking about Haneke’s relationship to mainstream cine-televisual culture.¹ Haneke’s work is apocalyptic, Horwath claims, in that it seeks to implode existing visual forms. But it is also integrative, in that Haneke uses the weapons of mass media – cinema and television – to make his critique: his films are characterised as much by compromise as by ambivalence. Haneke’s work is nothing, then, if not paradoxical. But it can also...

  14. Appendix I Michael Haneke Filmography
    (pp. 195-201)
  15. Appendix II Michael Haneke at the Box Office
    (pp. 202-202)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-210)
  17. Index
    (pp. 211-216)