Haneke is one of my favorite directors, but he is mighty intense, and it’s not at all surprising that it’s taken me five years to get to this. In fact this DVD has been sitting on my shelf for well over a month as I avoided watching it!
It’s a masterpiece. The actors are superb. The light is out of the most melancholy Vermeer ever. The script is crisp and nuanced, pellucid and mysterious, relentlessly denotative and playfully connotative. I think Robert Frost would have appreciated it.
Beyond the movie’s particular accomplishments, it’s in principle just so moving — and so rare — to see aging and dying represented with clarity and honesty.
There’s a sub-theme which I think concerns the possibility that art is not a consolation in the face of mortality. I don’t really want to think about it.
So many amazing moments, and such terrific editing. At one point, we cut to a young woman housekeeper vigorously vacuuming the rug, and the shock of her energy, her vitality, after we’ve been watching old people struggle with their failing bodies, is just incredible. Never thought fifteen seconds of watching someone vacuum a rug could make me cry.
I finished this several days ago and I feel like I’m still living in its aftershadow. Shouldn’t have waited so long!
For a movie that’s ostensibly a comedy, there’s a surprising rip current of anxiety and fear just beneath the surface of this story that seems constantly about to suck everyone under. So much is at stake for all the main characters; even as they try to act playful about the games they’re playing, they’re all very evidently terrified. To have no money, to lose your reputation, to be alone, to be cast out, to be cheated, to be stolen from — everyone scrambles to avoid these catastrophes, pressing for advantage, using whatever leverage fate has lent them. If you’re beautiful, you use that to get over; if you’re rich, you use that; if you’re clever, you use that. It’s all coated in sequins and soaked in champagne, but it’s a lot closer to Mother Courage than it looks. I see on Wikipedia that Fassbinder called it one of the best ten films ever, which seems insane until you think about it — isn’t Marilyn Monroe’s Lorelei Lee just as determined, wily, brilliant, desperate, and calculating as Hanna Schygulla’s Maria Braun? We know the story (thanks in large part to Fassbinder) of people doing whatever they had to do in postwar Germany to survive; maybe this movie proposes an analogous situation for single American women in the same period, with fewer weevils in the bread and more singing and dancing. Or maybe it was and is always thus. Anyway I found it depressing. Featuring matrimony in its usual role of deus ex machina.