Happy End

ABR Arts is generously supported by ABR Patrons and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
Dion Kagan Tuesday, 06 February 2018
Published in ABR Arts

The opening sequence of Happy End, the latest film from French director and provocateur Michael Haneke, is a funny–shocking series of domestic events captured via a livestreaming social media platform like Snapchat or Instagram. It shows the bedtime routine of a depressed, emotionally vacant woman. A pet hamster falls victim to an experiment with antidepressants. Then the woman too falls unconscious. A mordant textual commentary on the unfolding video turns out to have originated from the woman’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Eve (Fantine Harduin), who has effectively broadcast her mother’s murder.

The sequence gestures back to many favourite Haneke themes: the corrosive effects of indifference, poisonous inter-generational relationships, the mundanity of depression, and the indignity of death. Later in the film Eve will drug herself, recalling another cheerful Haneke trope: shocking reprisal, the cyclical revisitation of violence. The livestream sequence is also a tapestry of Haneke’s formal strategies: laboratory-style shots that put the banal horror of everyday life under the microscope; diegetic sound only; elliptical storytelling; sinister vérité footage. The screen-within-a screen is a persistent Haneke motif. Against the soporific cinema that Haneke has made it his artistic mission to resist, here it forces spectators to foreground their involvement. What is it we are watching?

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in ABR Arts
Dion Kagan

Dion Kagan

Dion Kagan is an erstwhile lecturer in gender studies who is now a book editor and an arts critic.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.