DIR: Michael Haneke • WRI: Simon Beaufoy • PRO: Margaret Ménégoz • DOP: Christian Berger • Ed: Monika Willi • CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant,Mathieu Kassovitz
Happy End is about the Laurent family, living their bourgeois lives in Calais, ignorant to the migrant crisis going on outside the walls of their land. It’s as if Haneke took all the characters that didn’t make it into his other films, stitched them into a family et voilà, a film was born! Haneke places the migrant crisis so far in the background you’d need a magnifying glass to find it. The astute viewer understands what he’s saying: we have become so numb to the migrant crisis, we need not mention it at all. But it left me jaded. If the second line of a blurb mentions migrants, you better make sure this is a film about migrants. Don’t give me two scenes where black extras are brought in, where they’re denied dialogue. But this is a white film, full of white people, about white people. Are we complicit in ignoring the migrant crisis? Yes. Is the film dissecting our complicity? Yes. Does it make it a good film? No.
Referencing immigration in the second line of a summary can also be explained by the lack of plot holding the film together. Eve, a twelve-year-old who keeps saying she’s thirteen, goes to live with her father and his new family after her mother is either poisoned by Eve, or tried to kill herself. The narrative dips in and out of different characters in the same family, working on contracts, trying to kill themselves, cheating on their spouses over Facebook.
Haneke remains cold in his view of technology, how smartphones and Facebook are so impersonal it makes the user distant…. Intimacy and coldness experienced at the same time in graphic Facebook sexting. The characters are so detached from each other, the viewer becomes detached too.
Scenes shot through a smartphone are the best ones in the film. A video of a baby in a crib as type is written real-time describing a dead sibling, a video of Eve poisoning a hamster with anti-depressants – disturbing at best. It’s a coming-of-age story, following a child dealing with the realisation her father is incapable of love. The temporally long shots give Haneke fans what they paid for, but you’re waiting for something that never happens.
They say you can’t look away from a car crash. Happy End is like that, except the car crash happens off screen.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Happy End is released 1st December 2017