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1 review, 6 user ratings

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Time of the Wolf
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by Jason Whyte

"Haneke's slow-and-tedious way just doesn't work here."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Michael Haneke is a fan of minimalism. The stubborn French director doesn't care for quick cuts, fade-outs, unnatural light or even much in the way on cinematic trickery (although this film was shot in anamorphic widescreen, which is almost pot calling the kettle black). The film's titles are stock, small cards on a silent black screen that certainly tested the patience of the 400-plus people at a screening at this year's Vancouver Film Festival, with wind-whistling and "Sound!" overheard. Throughout, the scenes tend to have an omnious, long feeling that will certainly test viewers' patience.

Which is not to say that this style is bad at all. The works of Andrei Tarkovsky, for example, had all deliriously slow techniques, but he wove in interesting stories and philosophies with the action. Haneke, this time around, seems hell-bent on confusing the viewer about exactly what he is trying to say in his story here. It is set in an apocalyptic Europe where food and water have run short, and as the film opens we meet a family who is escaping into the country to their log cabin for protection.

As they arrive, however, it turns out that their place has already been occupied by deserters, and the husband is quickly killed. His wife (Isabelle Huppert) is left alone with her children to struggle in the countryside of France, finding shelter and making fires wherever possible, sometimes even with quick-burning hay. They've become animals that have to survive on their instincts (hence the film's title...get it?) and work along with complete strangers to find a solution. It almost sounds like something out of "The Day After Tomorrow", but without any bad weather or massive tidal-waves to create tension. Here, silence is the key to fear.

The set-up evolves to some very odd choices of storytelling that is confusing and awkward. The wife and children suddenly build-up to more and more people who are all trying to survive the catasrophe. Haneke's goal here is not to show any of the surrounding terror and instead focus on the pain and suffering of all of these people, which leads to odd character decisions, and also an overlong sequence where a young girl is sobbing in pitch-dark. This long sequence caused over twenty people to scurry out of the theater and into the sunlight for release.

I normally don't mention the audience reaction here, but since I was viewing this in a film festival crowd, who are more alert to the kinds of storytelling, it was interesting to see people who couldn't take it. In a way, I don't blame them, just like I didn't blame the people at last year's Vancouver Film Festival for fleeing "Twentynine Palms", which was an uncomfortable experience to say the least. I can only imagine Haneke's film in a packed public performance, although Haneke's films don't tend to pack audiences on this continent.

I am not objecting Haneke's style here, but his substance in "Time of the Wolf" is slow and off-putting. His last film that I viewed, "The Piano Teacher", used the same kind of silent storytelling, but I liked that one more for keeping us wrapped up in the sexual mystery of Isabelle Huppert's fascination with sex and romance and not pulling away from her insanity. Huppert is an amazing actress with a great range, but she pretty much plays it straight here. And that's a problem among many others.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8998&reviewer=350
originally posted: 09/25/04 14:44:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/14/07 fools♫gold underrated Haneke 5 stars
7/13/06 William Goss Terrific acting and atmosphere, but deliberate pacing is taxing to say the least. 3 stars
7/07/06 vbguy yes it is slow...but it works for me 4 stars
9/25/04 Ninja Sheldon Slow. Understood the effect, appreciated the sentiments, but didn't work for me. 3 stars
6/20/04 von Bleak, nihilistic, and thought-provoking, like all things Haneke. 5 stars
5/21/04 Ray Very good!!! 4 stars
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  25-Jun-2004 (G)
  DVD: 30-Nov-2004



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