“Film is 24 lies per second at the service of truth”
—Michael Haneke (24 Realities per Second)
Such a play on Jean-Luc Godard’s famous dictum as to the inherent truth of the cinematic medium is typical of the cynical postmodernism of Michael Haneke, the Austrian writer-director whose feature films have consistently engaged in revealing and reassessing what he sees as the inevitable falsity of the filmed image. Considered a realist by virtue of his often long takes, predominantly naturalistic dialogue, and anti-sensationalist presentation of violence and sexuality, Haneke’s work has in fact constantly pointed toward its own unreality, exposing the abstraction of the cinematic image and the long tradition of the mechanical reproduction of reality as, necessarily, a manipulation of truth and thereby of the spectator. In eleven theatrical releases to date, he has repeatedly drawn attention to the extent of this manipulation, using his films as incitements to his audiences to re-evaluate their own relationship to reality and question the degree to which modern media—television and the internet as much as film—has divorced them from a meaningful connection to the truth of the world in which they exist. This essay intends to assess Haneke’s subjugation of the cinematic apparatus to his own self-reflexive end, and to reach—through an investigation of the manner in which he implements and inverts typical tropes of screen realism—an understanding of the key themes his oeuvre addresses by way of this intently self-aware, postmodern deconstruction of filmic reality.
Perhaps simply because it was not until 2005—when Caché won the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, making its director’s name synonymous with European art house cinema—that a new wave of auteurist analyses of Haneke’s multilingual oeuvre emerged, scholarly literature on the director outside of singular essays with limited scope remains relatively scarce. Undoubtedly, the seminal works thus far produced on the subject are Peter Brunette’s Michael Haneke and Catherine Wheatley’s Michael Haneke’s Cinema: The Ethic of the Image, two books that, though naturally reaching similar conclusions on many of the implications of Haneke’s work, also vary widely in their attribution of importance to the various narrative and stylistic trends that have accompanied his evolution as a filmmaker. As we can most particularly observe from the similarly segregated structure of the two notable collections of essays published on Haneke, Roy Grundmann’s A Companion to Michael Haneke and Brian Price and John David Rhodes’ On Michael Haneke, there has been a prevailing tendency among scholars to separate the director’s work along two primary thematic lines: those concerned with the representation of violence and our relation thereto; and those exploring prominent social issues, be they racism, (lack of) communication, sexuality, etc. Indeed, Haneke’s work up to and including Caché has conveniently seemed to facilitate this delineation: four features in German, neatly fitting the former category; four in French, sitting—for the most part—comfortably in the latter.
It is interesting to note that the position a particular critic takes on Haneke’s work seems inevitably weighted toward an appreciation of one of these tendencies above the other, even to the exclusion of the true importance of the other. Brunette, for instance, explores the director’s first four works in far greater depth than that afforded his French features, save Caché, which—its self-referential characteristics considered—is far more easily considered alongside the Austrian efforts than something like Time of the Wolf (2003), which Brunette seems to struggle to contextualise within his own selective reading. In fact, so evident is Brunette’s evaluation of the earlier works above the later that he terms Code Unknown (2000), the first French-language feature, “indistinct” in its inquisitions, which he claims are posed “only obliquely and ambivalently” (Haneke 75-81).
Wheatley, meanwhile, adeptly positioning Haneke’s filmography within the framework of Kantian ethics, interprets the director’s oeuvre as an engagement with the audience on questions of responsibility, specifically in the French features—which, she argues, build on the less successful experimentations of the Austrian films, “those [directly concerned] with visual depictions of violence in cinema” (2006)—where emotional involvement is juxtaposed with spectatorial awareness to form a tension from which important questions on the implications of our viewership are extrapolated: “in Haneke” she claims, “the object of this awareness is not primarily the ideology attached to the individual film” (2009: 36). Thus the first four films, concerned as they are to a lesser degree with wider social issues, are of less interest to Wheatley than their French-language cousins.
A prevailing weakness of both critics’ arguments—though alas, by virtue of lacking international availability that too of most arguments, my own included—is their exclusion of an in-depth consideration of Haneke’s pre-theatrical work, comprising some ten television films. While Wheatley fairly excuses this omission as beyond the bounds of her inquiry, Brunette delegates his assessment of the small screen productions to his article “Haneke and the Television Years: A Reading of Lemmings” in Grundmann’s collection, the subtitle of which of course betrays the restriction of this study to but a single such effort. His is one of several such essays Grundmann assembles, which offer a valuable insight into the televisual origin of Haneke’s primary thematic preoccupations, if necessarily an incomprehensive one given the range of authors, and thus perspectives, thereby engaged.
Supplemented by Grundmann and Price and Rhodes’ collections, Brunette and Wheatley’s readings of Haneke offer a useful insight into the recurrent themes his distinctive filmmaking style addresses. As is only proved by the troubling presence of the television films, however, attempting to impose so convenient a subdivision betrays the multifaceted diversity of Haneke’s oeuvre. The release of the 2007 English-language remake of Funny Games (1997) seems only to further problematise the linear progression postulated as part of this dichotomy, as—to an arguably even greater degree—do the subsequent features, The White Ribbon (2009) and Amour (2012), both of which diversify into thematic concerns that cannot comfortably be confined to either of the two schools of thought most commonly associated with Haneke’s work. We thus find ourselves in need of a new, less immediately reductive lens through which to examine the films, and with which we can formulate a more inclusive and comprehensive analysis of their thematic concerns.
Both Brunette and Wheatley, and indeed most others whose interpretation of Haneke this argument will draw upon, assess the director as a realist, a reasonable conclusion but one not satisfactorily enough rooted in a consideration of the contextual evolution of cinematic realism to truly appreciate the extent to which the progression of the medium—particularly with relation to the phenomenon of digital technology—has impacted Haneke’s exploration, and particularly manipulation, of our respective relationships to reality and fiction. Therefore, in implementing a more thorough contextualisation of Haneke’s particular brand(s) of realism, I shall in this essay seek to reconcile the disparate discourses which have encouraged and maintained the reductive subdivision of his work. To that end, I will draw upon Christian Metz's evaluative model of cinema as the optimal medium of artistic realism, thereafter tracing the evolution of realist discourse from the originating arguments of André Bazin and—to a lesser extent—Lev Kuleshov and Vsevolod Pudovkin, to the distinction made by Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin between, to perpetuate something of a cliché, real real and reel real. Contextualising Haneke's films within this framework, and specifically examining the manner in which he deliberately and subversively moves between Gregorie Currie’s three modes of realism as a means by which to collapse the contrasting illusions of reality the cinema purports, I will, building on the discourses of Laura Mulvey and Jean-Louis Baudry, examine the manner in which his subversion of the spectator's gaze and identification with the characters of his fiction reveals the problematic psychological projections and ethical contradictions inherent within contemporary cinema audiences. Finally, I will posit his work as an embodiment of Jean Boudrillard's conception of the "excess of reality", showing how this phenomenon is manipulated in Haneke’s cinema to reflect the audience’s problematic participation in morally contentious viewing experiences back upon them. Identification and the gaze, I will argue, is the unifying cinematic construction that binds Haneke’s seemingly diverse thematic strands—right from the earliest iterations of his televisual career—through which he implements, subverts, and investigates the phenomenon of audience engagement with the unreality of fiction and prompts us to reassess our relationship with reality. We will conclude, thus, that his oeuvre is composed not of mutually exclusive inquiries into the nature of screen violence and the shortcomings of contemporary society, but rather dedicated to a masterful manipulation of cinematic form that, above any singular socio-political or moralistic standpoint, is the connective tissue which characterises and congeals his filmography.
The truth is that there seems to be an optimal point, film, on either side of which the impression of reality produced by the fiction tends to decrease. On the one side, there is the theater, whose too real vehicle puts fiction to flight; on the other, photography and representational painting, whose means are too poor in their degree of reality to constitute and sustain a diegetic universe. (Metz 13)
It is not for no reason that Code Unknown, whose main characters are three groups of individuals whose lives in the wake of an interconnecting event constitute the narrative, features seemingly unimportant scenes of Anne (Juliette Binoche) auditioning for both a play and a film, and images her photojournalist boyfriend Georges (Thierry Neuvic) has captured on the battlefields of Kosovo and the metro trains of Paris. Haneke here seems to very consciously embrace Metz’s idea, the way in which Anne’s play and Georges’ photographs are clearly distinct from the narrative flow but Anne’s film-within-a-film fits alarmingly well pointing to the ease with which cinema is able to posit itself as reality. The first scene we see from the film-within-a-film, later revealed as an adaptation of John Fowles’ The Collector, is in fact a rehearsal tape, in which Anne addresses the camera directly as the off-screen voice of the director-within-the-film reads to her the dialogue of the male part. Crucially, the director-within-the-film here is voiced by Haneke himself, an important self-reflexive point neither Brunette nor Wheatley appears to realise. This scene, then, presents us with three “realities” all at once: that of Frederick and Melinda, the novel’s characters; that of Anne and the director-within-the-film, Code Unknown’s characters; and that of Binoche and Haneke, the people in the real world. Such tripartite construction, postulating various incarnations of “reality” between which it is impossible to discern, represents perhaps Haneke’s most accomplished collapse of the cinematic illusion, a recurring concern which—coupled with the identification he either encourages or indeed forces in the viewer—demands our reinterpretation of the way we engage with the images he, and all directors, presents us.
Before we expand our focus toward further specific examples from Haneke’s films, let us consider Currie’s aforementioned modes, three categorisations of cinematic “reality” which, as well as offering a helpful overview of the progression of representations of the real throughout the history of the medium, will prove useful in discussing Haneke’s operation within the sphere of realism. The first of these, labelled “transparency”, Currie describes thus: “film, because of its use of the photographic method, reproduces rather than merely represents the real world” (325-6). This is perhaps confusing; Currie, of course, is not suggesting cinema as some sort of séance! Rather, he refers to the indexicality of the photographic image, and the supposed objectivity of the picture it presents of the world. Certainly the most idealistic—even romantic—iteration of realism, this was the sort particularly championed by Bazin, who explains: “The guiding myth, then, inspiring the invention of cinema, is the accomplishment of… an integral realism, a recreation of the world in its own image, an image unburdened by the freedom of interpretation of the artist or the irreversibility of time” (21).
As we will see later, indeed as we can almost intuitively declare, this is a fanciful notion for cinema’s potentiality: the freedom of interpretation of an artist is integral to capturing any image at all. Bazin was well aware of this, as he later made clear in his appreciations of French Poetic Realism and Italian Neorealism; it is fairer to say that he recognised the ontological ability of cinema to capture the essence of reality. As Kuleshov puts it: “[The quality of films] is determined (by the way of the ideological purpose) by the material itself, especially since the material of cinema is reality itself, life itself” (195). Currie’s second mode then, dubbed “perceptual realism” seems more reasonable: “the experience of film watching approximates the normal experience of perceiving the real world” (326). This conception, less rigid in its ideology, presents the cinema screen as a window into the world of the movie in question, through which we can observe the diegesis as it plays out according to a recognisable semblance of our own reality. Pudovkin described it as such: “By the process of junction of pieces of celluloid appeared a new, filmic space without existence in reality” (61). Perceptual realism, we thus understand, is an aesthetic presented in the manner of the visible reality of the world around us, but necessarily detached from it by the abstractions of the cinematic apparatus, divorced from any true sense of objective reality by the unavoidable subjectivity of the hand that operates the camera. We turn to Barthes for clarification: “the image is re-presentation, which is to say ultimately resurrection, and, as we know, the intelligible is rendered antipathetic to lived experience” (32).
Finally, Currie posits as the third form of screen realism something which is not, strictly, a realism at all. Declaring it “illusionism”, he defines it as “the idea that film induces the illusion that fictional events are real and that the viewer is directly witnessing them” (331). This, we know, is the means of cinematic engagement attempted by the Hollywood blockbuster, which—with its evolution of technologies such as widescreen, CGI, and 3D throughout the years—seeks to immerse us in the world of the film, by no means comparable to our own existence. Lev Manovich provides a useful definition: “The result: a new kind of realism, which can be described as "something which looks exactly as if it could have happened, although it really could not."” (301). Though inevitably advancing yet further from tangible reality with each new advancement in computer graphics and the unreal creatures and environments they permit us to make appear real—these are, says Stephen Prince, “tremendous changes that are affecting the role and function of… the viewer’s perception of the nature of cinema” (26)—this illusionism is not a new phenomenon, as Tom Gunning is keen to clarify: “The new ease of manipulation of the image that digital processes offer can at points seem to attenuate the indexically based truth claim of the photograph, but this threat of deceit has always been an aspect of photographic practice” (48). Digital cinema, then, while making all the easier the deception of illusionism, is merely a continuation of a trend that has existed since the birth of the medium. Such a claim is certainly given weight by the words of Benjamin who, writing in 1936, says: “The adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality is a process of unlimited scope, as much for thinking as for perception” (220).
If these remarks are at all correct, the photograph must be related to a pure spectatorial consciousness and not to the more projective, more ‘magical’ fictional consciousness on which film by and large depends. This would lend authority to the view that the distinction between film and photograph is not a simple difference of degree but a radical opposition. Film can no longer be seen as animated photographs: the having-been-there gives way before a being-there of the thing; which omission would explain how there can be a history of the cinema, without any real break with the previous arts of fiction, whereas the photograph can in some sense elude history (despite the evolution of the techniques and ambitions of the photographic art) and represent a ‘flat’ anthropological fact, at once absolutely new and definitively unsurpassable, humanity encountering for the first time in its history messages without a code. (Barthes 45)
Given the perspicacious manner in which Haneke foregrounds the distinctions between photography and film—along with theatre—in Code Unknown, it seems highly unlikely that the emphasis of Barthes’ words—the italics are his own—only coincidentally fits the film’s title so well. It is, as we have discussed, one of the director’s most overt complications of the cinema’s presentation of reality, deliberately confusing the promise of transparency with perceptual realism and illusionism. While rarely on so many levels all at once, Haneke constantly confronts his audience with such confluences of seemingly incorrigible realisms, thus exposing the inherent falsity of the filmed image and provoking a consideration of the reasons we engage, and the problems associated with doing so absent-mindedly. This would never function as effectively as it has in Haneke’s cinema without him first inciting such engagement. We turn now to an exploration of the means by which he attains our attention: in coming to understand this aspect of his spectatorial manipulation, we can fully appreciate the effect of its combination with the deconstructive treatises on cinematic realism we have already seen.
It is strange to think that from a film as provocative and intentionally repulsive as Funny Games can come any reflection of the viewer, yet this is precisely the intent and impact of its disturbingly self-reflexive form, Haneke employing the generic conventions of the horror film—specifically “torture porn”, to borrow the problematic but, for our purposes, serviceable appellation—to insist of the audience an admission of their own responsibility for the pain and suffering inflicted in the narrative. Witnessing a bourgeois family as they are held hostage in their holiday home and made to play a series of growingly morbid games by two psychopathic young men, the film manipulates the viewer’s gaze, questioning who in this drama they are rooting for, and more importantly why. We turn to Mulvey for context: “As the spectator identifies with the main male protagonist, he projects his look on to that of his like, his screen surrogate, so that the power of the male protagonist as he controls events coincides with the active power of the erotic look, both giving a satisfying sense of omnipotence” (Mulvey 838). Such identification is overwhelmingly encouraged, the young men regularly turning to the camera to wink at the audience or suggest they place their bets as to the family’s chance of survival. The sole significant difference between Haneke’s two iterations of Funny Games, and a particularly striking one in the context of Mulvey’s words, is that Ann (Naomi Watts) is stripped to her underwear far sooner than Anna (Susanne Lothar). The implications are obvious: Ann’s more immediate nudity renders her visually subordinate to her torturers’ gaze—and thus, by implication of Haneke’s techniques, the audience’s gaze—all the sooner, emphasising our own cruel power over her. Of course, as empathetic humans, we should identify with Ann, and herein lies the spectatorial dilemma: “Haneke puts audience identification into play, as it were, like so much else in this film, oscillating between the various poles of empathy and attachment that are being offered, simply to problematize the whole notion of identification and to make viewers understand just what is happening when they make the apparently simple decision to watch a movie, especially a violent one” (Brunette, Haneke 56).
Funny Games is a black sheep of sorts in Haneke’s filmography: while most of his films emphasise the role of audience expectations and desires in inflicting violence upon the characters, it is the only example where the viewer is directly implicated. What Mulvey terms “this contradiction between libido and ego” (837) is similarly—though much more implicitly—set in motion in Benny’s Video (1992), when our gaze is immediately aligned to that of the seemingly transparent camera-within-the-film as its images are the first to be seen on the screen, and through them that of the eponymous operator (Arno Frisch). Shackled to his perspective as the narrative progresses, we are made to bear witness as he brutally kills a young girl for no reason more than to satisfy his curiosity, yet his very deliberate movement of her skirt downward to cover her exposed underwear enforces an important desexualisation of the scene: he is not aroused by the violence; rather, he—like us—is simply desensitised to it, and surprised to find it has real-world implications. Sexualised violence, often a threat in Haneke’s films, is the primary concern of The Piano Teacher, which again manipulates us as per Mulvey’s principles, equating our position to that of Walter (Benoît Magimel) as he pursues and eventually rapes Erika (Isabelle Huppert), whose masochistic and voyeuristic actions throughout the film have communicated both a society-imposed sexual repression and a reflection of our own perverse presence as spectators into this world; as Luisa Rivi notes: “Haneke calls to attention the spectator’s status as a voyeur who is consistently acknowledged and compelled to share in what is taking place on the screen so as to take responsibility for it” (130). Equally identified with, and repulsed by, Erika and Walter, we are left with an irreconcilable spectatorial tension that serves chiefly to point to the perversity of our engagement with narrative presentations of such sexual violence.
More subtle—arguably more effective—are the other means by which Haneke evokes involvement with his characters, for instance those relatively rare occasions where he elects to implement sequences of dreams and memory. These immersions within the subjective perceptual reality of his characters, much more impactful than in the films of most other directors by their stark contrast with the realist aesthetic Haneke has lulled us into expecting of his cinema, serve to align us with their internal viewpoints and encourage our identification. Seen most effectively in Caché and Amour, perhaps slightly less so in The Seventh Continent, these are implemented to differing but no less effective ends: the former, tying us to the guilt-ridden nightmares of Georges (Daniel Auteuil), equates him—and thus his guilt—with us; the latter, first in a surrealistic horror dream sequence, later in a series of recollections Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) has of his by-then-deceased wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), take us gradually further from lived reality for reasons we will return to later.
An important factor of Haneke’s films, and one we have not yet considered, is his aesthetic collaborations: he has maintained a number of long-standing artistic relationships, most notably with cinematographer Christian Berger and production designer Christoph Kanter, both of whom have facilitated the meticulous control of mise-en-scène that characterises his compositions. This was deployed to demonstrable effect in 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994), where Berger’s tight framing and Kanter’s minimalistic design allow us to ascertain, and thereafter sympathise with, the emotionally empty existences of its central cast of characters who, like those of Code Unknown, weave through each other’s lives unnoticed, unable to connect.
Perhaps the most important manner by which Haneke prompts identification with his characters, more effective even perhaps than his forceful manipulation of such, is his use—beginning with Code Unknown—of stars. Binoche had, of course, by this time already won an Academy Award, making her precisely the sort of international actress who could not only elicit viewer sympathy almost immediately, but who also acted as an incitement to viewership, another device employed by Haneke to question the spectatorial relationship to the filmed image. As Wheatley notes: “For using a star like Binoche within his film allows Haneke to operate certain strategies of seduction, strategies not unlike those which genre opens up to him, strategies that are both intra- and extra-cinematic” (2009: 126). Figures like Binoche, Huppert, and Auteuil—and more prominently Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt—are yet more tools put to use by Haneke in constructing an illusionism which he will subsequently deconstruct.
Interesting in this regard is The White Ribbon, Haneke’s first feature in black and white and one which makes use of voiceover, which Brunette claims as “a technique unheard of in Haneke’s previous work” (Haneke 130). The claim is untrue: Brunette forgets the television film Three Paths to the Lake (1976), in which observations on the unfolding drama are evinced by way of an unseen narrator, existing outside of the narrative sphere and offering commentary rooted in an omniscient view of the story. The voiceover of The White Ribbon, while explained as that of a character within the diegesis, attains—through his retrospective retelling—a similar sense of all-knowingness. In his narration, granting us his perspective, there is again a clear incitement to specific engagement, though this is again reflexively questioned by Haneke. On the digital (de)colourisation by which Haneke rendered the captured footage monochrome, Paul Cooke—referring particularly to the wheat fields, robbed of their goldenness—has this to say: “In the process they form part of the film’s overall strategy of Verfremdung (distanciation), a deliberately modernist gesture preventing identification with the characters, forcing the audience to reflect on the story as it unfolds” (257).
Each of Haneke’s films—or at least those of the theatrical era—we thus see, concern themselves just as much with creating and subverting their own illusionism as they do with establishing and collapsing a perceptual realism. But is this just, as Wheatley claims, a case of “[prompting] the spectator to think about their own participation in the cinematic institution” (2009: 44)? I contest that it is not: Haneke is deeply concerned with inciting us to quiz our own relationship to fiction and its disconnection from reality but, I believe, he does so for more noble purposes than simply to lecture us on our failings. Let us return to 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, which—despite its clear statement of the conclusion toward which it will work, the shooting of three people in a bank and the shooter’s subsequent suicide, at the very beginning of the film—provides one of the most shattering climactic realisations of any of the director’s works. Its titular fragments comprise both scenes from the lives of its characters as they go about their unconnected days and television newsreels interspersed, seemingly at random, throughout. These arbitrary images of death and disaster, presented in easily digestible chunks alongside reports of celebrity news, attain a harrowing new reality when the murder of those same characters about whom we have come to care is presented in the same manner, reduced to a mere thirty seconds of apathetic journalism. Consider Baudrillard, as he defines his media concept of the “excess of reality”:
In this case, then, the real is superadded to the image like a bonus of terror, like an additional frisson: not only is it terrifying, but, what is more, it is real. Rather than the violence of the real being there first, and the frisson of the image being added to it, the image is there first, and the frisson of the real is added. Something like an additional fiction, a fiction surpassing fiction. (39)
Haneke, having successfully enveloped us in his illusionism, finally brings just such an excess of reality to bear, sharply reminding us that behind every similar news segment we passively observe in our own lives, there is tragedy of equal magnitude. The trap has been set, the bait has been laid, and we—Haneke’s prey—have been firmly ensnared. The observant reader will have made note of the recurring use of the names Georges and Anne throughout Haneke’s narratives. These—or indeed the English/German equivalent, as appropriate—are employed repeatedly to describe a couple in all his feature films save 71 Fragments, The Piano Teacher, and The White Ribbon. This can be seen as yet another device deployed to draw attention to the construction of fiction and its abstraction from reality: these, Haneke states intently, are not real people. If we are able to compare ourselves to the suicidal family of The Seventh Continent, framed through their windscreen, against their television screen, and upon our cinema screen; if we are able to relate to the characters of Benny’s Video and Caché, caught against the false realities of their videotapes; if we can connect to the disparate souls of Code Unknown and 71 Fragments; if we can identify with the twisted creations of Funny Games and The Piano Teacher: if we can be so easily led to forge a bond with characters so far removed from the real world and indeed all those in the warped illusionism of cinema, why then do we struggle so hopelessly to connect to one another?
The “reality” mined by the cinema is thus first of all that of a “self.” But, because the reflected image is not that of the body itself but that of a world already given as meaning, one can distinguish two levels of identification. The first, attached to the image itself, derives from the character portrayed as a center of secondary identifications, carrying an identity which constantly must be seized and reestablished. The second level permits the appearance of the first and places it “in action”—this is the transcendental subject whose place is taken by the camera which constitutes and rules the objects in this “world.” (Baudry 45)
The simple love story which constitutes Amour, Haneke’s most recent film at the time of writing, has drawn surprise from critics accustomed to the director’s austere reservations, much as the historical abstraction of The White Ribbon—for all its similarities of style—seemed for him a new sort of film entirely. But neither is much of a departure, really, rather a movement toward exploring new truths through the lie that is cinema. Haneke continues with these films to manipulate the falsity of the cinematic apparatus toward a collapse of the illusionistic “reality” cinema feeds audiences, pairing the engagement he forces with the world of the film and the awareness he insists upon of the real world in an attempt to make us embrace the truth all around us. Indeed, two strikingly similar shots in the respective films serve to prominently evidence just how well they conform to the overview of Haneke’s oeuvre this essay has offered. With The White Ribbon, Haneke’s final implication that the fascistic upbringing of the children whom it follows may have been the root of Nazism is followed by the image of the community facing us in the church as we occupy the position of the preacher—who, crucially, takes a seat within the congregation—to remind us that we must engage with the reality of history, lest we doom ourselves to repeat it. And with Amour, for which just such a reversion of spectatorship is one of the very first images, he encourages us from the film’s beginning to accept and face the reality of death. If we do not, he seems to caution, we may find ourselves like Anne and Georges’ daughter Eva (Huppert) as she wanders through her parents’ once-vibrant apartment at the film’s conclusion: meandering through a space so familiar, unable to identify with the lives and love that once resided within.
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24 Realities per Second. Dir. Nina Kusturica and Eva Testor. Mobilefilm Produktion, 2005.
71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. Dir. Michael Haneke. Wega Film, 1994.
Amour. Dir. Michael Haneke. Les Films du Losange, 2012.
Benny’s Video. Dir. Michael Haneke. Wega Film, 1992.
Caché. Dir. Michael Haneke. Les Films du Losange, 2005.
Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys. Dir. Michael Haneke. Canal+, 2000.
Funny Games. Dir. Michael Haneke. Wega Film, 1997.
Funny Games. Dir. Michael Haneke. Halcyon Pictures, 2007.
Lemmings. Dir. Michael Haneke. Österreichischer Rundfunk, 1979.
The Piano Teacher. Dir. Michael Haneke. MK2, 2001.
The Seventh Continent. Dir. Michael Haneke. Wega Film, 1989.
Three Paths to the Lake. Dir. Michael Haneke. Österreichischer Rundfunk, 1976.
Time of the Wolf. Dir. Michael Haneke. Les Films du Losange, 2003.The White Ribbon. Dir. Michael Haneke. Les Films du Losange, 2009.
 For the purpose of this essay we will consider Lemmings, broadcast in two separate parts on sequential nights in 1979, a single film. Das Schloß (1997), though exhibited theatrically in some countries in the wake of Funny Games’ success, was originally made for television and shall thus be treated as such.
 I refer here to both films, identical in intent as they are.
 The titular conceit, a recurring image of an artificial beach from a billboard, represents the characters’ romantic visualisation of their own impending death, and may thus be seen as either an abstract visual metaphor on Haneke’s part or a POV shot from within the characters’ minds, as it were. The flashback scenes which conclude the film, however, are inarguably the subjective recollections of a dying Georg.
 For an in-depth exploration of this, see my essay in Strange Enlightenments.