Austere, 75-year-old auteur Michael Haneke might not seem the most obvious choice to comment on the current landscape of live streaming and democratic video, but he proves himself a master of all forms of visual storytelling with his latest bitterly funny film Happy End.
Following his innovative use of CCTV and home video in Hidden, 12 years ago, he adapts to this modern age without judgment or condescension. The film opens with a live video shot by Eve (Harduin) of her mother getting ready for bed, and in his hands it’s simply a realistic way to tell the young girl’s story. Text messages flicking over a vertical video screen may disgust purists, but they are inarguably effective at conveying her emotions and relationship with her mother.
It’s remarkable how many of our conversations nowadays happen on screens rather than face to face or on the phone. Haneke seamlessly adapts to this new form of dialogue, remaining faithful to real life without any hint of gimmickry.
And it’s a fascinating story at that, filled with a rich cast of characters who are played by a brilliant ensemble cast. If no one quite steals the show it’s testament to Haneke’s emotionally intelligent script that lends sympathy and interest to every facet of this unusual family unit. Trintignant is droll and profound as the family patriarch, Kassovitz is sharp and slippery as lovelorn doctor Thomas, Rogowski (and his amazing karaoke scene) is thrilling to watch as the alcoholic Pierre, and Huppert ties everything together with a strong, spirited performance.
Haneke is incapable of shooting a dull scene, and the debates his work prompts are always intriguing. Happy End is no different, offering a complex examination of how we live and end our lives – including the most outrageous final shot in the last decade.
CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Toby Jones, Mathieu Kassovitz, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Franz Rogowski
DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke
WRITER: Michael Haneke
SYNOPSIS: A drama about a family in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop.