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Isabelle Huppert leads this bourgeois family ensemble drama from the two-time Cannes Palme d'Or-winning Austrian auteur, Michael Haneke.
"[Happy End] focuses on the wealthy Laurent family living in Calais. With a top cast, including Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Mathieu Kassovitz, Haneke looks at three generations of this clan, and explores the generational difference in attitudes towards life and the world. The family seems to be living a comfortable existence, largely unaffected by the crises that surround them – they are, after all, not far from the Calais Jungle migrant camp. The genteel veneer however hides deep problems related to business dealings, illicit sexual desires, online bullying and suicidal tendencies. Each member of this family is, in some way, troubled. Haneke lays out the pieces of the puzzle before us, and the picture they form as they gradually come together is one of malaise. In Happy End, Haneke revisits some of the themes of his most memorable films, and once again gives us his incisive view of a disturbed world." (Sydney Film Festival)
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- Michael Haneke('The Piano Teacher', 'Amour', 'Caché')
Drama, World Cinema
Rating: M Sexual material, violence, offensive language & suicide themes
French with English subtitles
France, Austria, Germany
Austrian auteur Michael Haneke (Hidden, Amour) hasn’t made a Twin Peaks-style TV series, but if he did, it might look something like this spiteful but slightly drawn-out drama.
After her mother is incapacitated in suspicious circumstances, little minx Fantine Harduin is sent to live with her father (Amelie’s Mathieu Kassovitz) and his family in Calais. That’s four generations of grumpy French toffs, including Haneke regulars Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour), under the same roof, surely a recipe for trouble? Though each has their own seething secrets, it’s Harduin’s interactions with the ageing Trintignant that intrigue the most, the other subplots – an affair here, an industrial accident there – left to meander.
The director’s favourite motifs are present as always. Afficionados will recognise his preoccupation with anonymously filmed crimes (see Benny’s Video), the violence bubbling under the brittle surfaces of polite society (The White Ribbon), colonial guilt (Hidden), and euthanasia (Amour), among others. But the results are less focused than his usual laser-eyed art-horror, and Happy End suffers accordingly. As, indeed, does everyone in it.
It’s a wry, tinder-dry watch whose best moments buck that trend. In one, a superb traveling shot follows Trintigant down a busy highway in his wheelchair – the camerawork so suddenly, strangely dynamic it feels like the opening of Saving Private Ryan compared to the festering composure of what’s gone before.
Haneke’s strongest work captures a sense of impending disaster, and how it engulfs the characters. For the most part, Happy End is all expectation, no eruption.
Total Film (UK)
The Guardian (UK)