July 6, 2004
Here is my favorite shot from Time of the Wolf:
It’s Isabelle Huppert looking for her son, who has disappeared in the middle of the countryside in the middle of a foggy night in the middle of some unnamed apocalyptic disaster.
Who the fuck has the balls to film total darkness for 10 minutes? Michael Haneke, that’s who. In any other film you’d see at least some kind of barely-lit form, some fake moonlight, something to give the viewer something to look at even though the characters can’t see. But not here. You are as scared and uncomfortable as the characters, plunged into the same darkness. This film continually subverts all viewer expectations of traditional film. Plot, character, image…everything is non-traditional and de-centralized and disturbed in this film. Major moments happen quickly and are not reflected on. Minor moments drag out endlessly. Cliches are set up and then destroyed. Some say this is a Dogma film, and while I don’t think it conforms completely to the manifesto, it probably comes pretty close.
I haven’t linked to any reviews or IMDB profiles of this film, and I’m not going to, because they all use an image that I think you shouldn’t see unless you see the whole film. It’s one of the very few super-dramatic images in the film, and to take it out of context and use it as a teaser is just wrong in a film that so diligently subverts that kind of drama. Of course, now that I’ve said this, you’ll go looking for it. Just know that I disapprove!
Plus, the IMDB profile for the film has the wrong director, the wrong year, and the wrong plot description. It does have an image from the right film, though. Even though it’s wrong.
POSTSCRIPT: Perhaps I should add that Kiarostami on occasion does this kind of thing with darkness, though not in exactly the same way or to this extent. And perhaps I should add that there were a few things in this film that were reminiscent of Kiarostami. And Tarkovsky. And perhaps Von Trier. And perhaps Akerman. But it’s useless to throw out these names; I suppose much of art cinema is slow and full of expansive minimalist imagery.