DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Happy End

Director - Michael Haneke - 2017

"Greasy movie"
Michael Haneke's eagerly anticipated Happy End deconstructs a French bourgeois family living in Calais, in all of their profound hopelessness and despondency; the director uses old and somewhat trite devices - from Cannes and then the BFI London Film Festival

This is by far the most eagerly anticipated film of the 70th Cannes International Film Festival, which is taking place right now. That’s because Michael Haneke’s last two films L’Amour (2009) and The White Ribbon (2012) both received the Palme d’Or. Plus he received other major prizes at the event for The Piano Teacher (2001) and Hidden (2005). And this also he kick-started his international career exactly 20 years ago with Funny Games.

The stakes were very high and the anticipation was such that the Festival and the director refused to provide a synopsis of the film. The only information available until two days ago were a couple of pictures, a short extract (at the bottom of this article), the cast and a very succinct clue as to what the film may be: “All around us, the world, and we, in its midst, blind.”

Haneke has delivered yet another majorly bleak study of Europe and human being. It tells the story of a bourgeois family based in Calais. Anne Laurent (Haneke’s regular anti-superstar Isabelle Huppert) runs the family business because her father Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant, pictured below) is too old and her son Pierre (Franz Rogowski) is too emotionally unstable. Her brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) has a wife, a mysterious lover and two children, including 13-year-old Eve (Fantine Harduin) – whose mother is in hospital in a comma after a suicide attempt.

Death and suicide are central themes of the film, and they seem affect nearly every character in one way or another. Taking away your own life look like the only feasible solution, the only possible “happy end” to these deeply trouble people. They are engulfed in the mediocrity of their vulgar wealth, their loveless relationships and their futile routines. Huppert is extremely effective as usual, even if her character is one of the least complex in the movie. The little Fantine Harduin is the star of the movie, conveying a sense of misery and gloom that is guaranteed haunt you. Jean-Louis Trintignant is also very convincing in the role of the patriarch losing not just his desire to live but also his connection to the real world, as dementia begins to set in.

The first sequence of the movie will upset animal lovers, and I’m still not sure how it was done (whether the animal was harmed or killed in the making). One way or the other, it’s very realistic, and it sets the tone for the movie very early on: this is going to a deadly ride.

The socio-political commentary is also there. It is no coincidence that the film takes place in Calais, located in one of only two departments where Marine Le Pen beat Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the French presidential elections this month, and also where thousands of refugees are located. These largely unwelcomed aliens, who were often the subject of Le Pen’s rabid campaigning platform, make a very inconvenient appearance in a crucial moment of the film.

While effective as both a socio-political and emotional statement, Happy End feels a little trite if you are familiar with Haneke’s filmography and cinematic trademarks. It tries to recycle old devices without adding anything new. You will recognise the twisted sexuality of The Piano Teacher, the obsession with capturing banal actions on camera of Hidden and a very central element of Amour (which I can’t mention without spoiling the movie). In a nutshell, Happy End is a little too ambitious and not fresh enough.

Happy End was very well received, but it did not take the Palme d’Or home (which would be the Austrian director’s third). I wasn’t rooting for it. Haneke needs to come up with more original devices before taking receiving the highest prize in the film festival world for the third time.

This piece was originally written during the Cannes International Film Festival in May. The film premieres in the UK during the 61st BFI London Film Festival, taking place from October 5th to 15th.



"Greasy movie"

By Victor Fraga - 23-05-2017

By Victor Fraga - 23-05-2017

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based writer with more than 15 years of involvement...

DMovies Poll

Do/would you go to the cinema in order to watch documentaries?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

François Ozon probably doesn’t get much sleep. At [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the latest zombie [Read More...]
Perhaps no other 20th century artist has captured [Read More...]
Time flies by! DMovies was launched in February [Read More...]
American novelist Dennis Cooper’s cinematic debut feels like [Read More...]

Read More

Elle

Paul Verhoeven
2017

Victor Fraga - 19-02-2017

Verhoeven's latest movie is a sensual ballad of visceral sex and dysfunctional relationships, elegant in its eccentricity and deliciously repulsive in its pathology, starring Isabelle Huppert - now on BFI Player [Read More...]

Souvenir

Bavo Defurne
2017

Lucas Pistilli - 23-06-2017

Twelve points go to... Isabelle Huppert!!! The steely French actress plays an old Eurovision singer who fell into oblivion decades earlier, and now finds love with a younger man through her voice - in cinemas now! [Read More...]

Safari

Ulrich Seidl
2016

Victor Fraga - 10-10-2016

Ugly Austrians go hunting: Ulrich Seidl's latest documentary is a painful and uncomfortable reminder of a sadistic, colonial and aristocratic culture which still survives in Africa - from the BFI London Film Festival [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *