You Ain't Seen Me, Right? – Time Of The Wolf (2003)


8th July 2011

After a short hiatus, You Ain’t Seen Me, Right? is back with more obscure films to test the very limits of your movie knowledge, as well as your patience for things you didn’t know you should care about.

You Ain't Seen Me, Right? is brought to you by Daniel Palmer, of Part-Time Infidel web fame. He spends his days constantly hooked up to a DVD player like an intravenous feed. The reason he’s been missing these past few weeks is because he suffered a near-fatal Fellini overdose.

Time Of The Wolf (2003)
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Time Of The Wolf

If you’re looking for an uplifting, inspirational take on the human condition, then the work of Austrian director Michael Haneke is definitely not for you. Like David Lynch without the affection for Americana or sense of the absurd, Haneke’s modus operandi is to shine a light into the dark pockets of the suburban landscape and explore our relationship with violence. While often accused of being overly didactic and belabouring his points - this is certainly true of Funny Games (1997) - Haneke specialises in exposing the illusion of stability, tracing the dark impulses beneath the veneer of respectability, posing awkward questions and picking away at the tenuous certainties to which we cling.

The Laurent family arrive at their weekend home to find a man brandishing a shotgun and telling them to leave - the father of a family that has occupied the house. This standoff ends with the husband, George Laurent (Daniel Duval), being shot in front of his wife, Anne (Isabella Huppert). As Anne and her two children, Eva (Anaïs Demoustier) and Ben (Lucas Biscombe), are cast into the wilderness and left to fend for themselves; it transpires that a cataclysm has occurred that has brought society to a standstill.

Haneke presents the tribulations of those displaced by this unspecified catastrophe with a dispassionate eye; sticking largely to long shots and extended takes, nature watching on impassively. Time having become irrelevant, the narrative progresses at a purposely slow pace, the dialogue reduced to the rudiments of communication, the eerie stillness and disquieting silence uninterrupted by music designed to tell the viewer how to feel.

We all knew that it was only a matter of time before they rebooted The Blair Witch Project.

Jürgen Jürges’ spectacular photography is integral to conveying the bleakness and brutality of this post-electric landscape: from the denuded trees and deserted buildings to the characters’ gaunt faces, it lends everything a weathered look, a profusion of washed-out grays, greens and browns, a flickering flame the only means of keeping the impenetrable darkness at bay.

As with her previous collaboration with Haneke in The Piano Teacher (2001), Huppert delivers a perfectly judged, deftly executed central performance as a woman thrust into an impossible position who must remain strong for her children. Her young co-stars show uncommon maturity in such demanding roles, and Hakim Taleb is equally impressive as a young survivalist who embodies the constant struggle between morality and instinct; his desire to be good compromised by the demands of self-preservation.

The train station where the family seeks shelter and awaits the arrival of the train that will rescue them is a mini-society where a group of disparate souls struggle to co-exist: there is the profiteering Koslowski (Oliver Gourmet), the confrontational Lisa (Béatrice Dalle) and the blissfully detached Béa (Brigitte Roüan).

Granted, Time of the Wolf is not easy viewing; it is unremittingly grim and emotionally draining, offering no respite from its dystopian vision. But it has an unflinching honesty that sets it apart from anything else in the genre. Without a trace of sentiment, Haneke outlines the practicalities of survival in this harsh environment, providing a uniquely European take on the ‘end of the world’ scenario, where our worst impulses come to the surface unconstrained.
There you go – a film released in the last decade! Did you know it? No, me neither. More from You Ain't Seen Me, Right? next week?.

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