Time of the Wolf (France/Austria/Germany; 114 min.)


directed by: Michael Haneke
starring: Isabelle Huppert; Béatrice Dalle; Patrice Chéreau
Le Temps du Loup
 
Bob says: [SPOILERS] was pretty impressed with this one. It didn’t affect me as strongly as THE PIANO TEACHER did, but that’s a pretty high standard. I think it’s closer in philosophy to FUNNY GAMES – in this case the force that’s working against people is their environment (whether this is a natural or man-made disaster doesn’t matter), whereas in the other film it’s those two fun loving young men, but what matters is the way people respond to these horrible, completely unexpected situations. In THE PIANO TEACHER, it’s all psychology. We get some idea of how Huppert’s character got as screwed up as she is, and it’s her own problems for the most part keeping her from being happy. It’s not a matter of dealing with uncontrollable forces (well, from her perspective it is, but not from ours).

"I have to disagree with Michael about the ending. I don’t see it as optimistic at all. Yes, it appears the shot is taken from a train, but what does that tell us? Do we have any reason to think this train is heading toward the people? All we see is an empty landscape, and the shot goes on for a while. If it were ten seconds we could think 'the train’s coming! Everyone’s saved!' But as it continued on, I found myself wondering where everyone was. Maybe it’s a month or two later, the trains are finally running again, but the people have all died of starvation, committed suicide, or lost what little civilization that was left among them and killed each other.

"And yes, I think the horse scene was real. I don’t know what the animal cruelty laws are like in France, but since horse meat is everyday fare over there, I don’t imagine there are any laws against filming the slaughter of an animal for food."

Michael's response: [SPOILERS] "Just to clarify, Bob...

When I commented on the sliver of hope at the end, I actually wasn't referring to the train scene, but the scene immediately before involving the young boy. The fact that the man who helps him, the erstwhile 'father figure' in the scene, is capable of compassion, when heretofore we've only seen his prejudice, seems somewhat hopeful. Then the train scene follows with it's volumes of ambiguity.

As for the horse... come on! That was a special effect."

Diane's response: [SPOILERS] "My interp of the ending: 'our' folks were on the train, looking out. So it was hopeful in that regard. But that they will find a better place is hard to imagine..."

 
Bruce says: "Attention, SPOILERS.

"In an old radio ad a man and woman were screaming at each other, 'It’s a car wax.' 'It’s a dessert topping.' 'It’s a car wax.' 'It’s a dessert topping.' A deep voiceover suddenly steps in with 'Wait a minute, you’re both right.' All through THE TIME OF THE WOLF, I was hoping for an epiphany. I would gladly have settled for an ad and voiceover to help me out, giving me some clue what was going on before my eyes.

"Exactly what is going on in this film is never revealed to the audience. This 'end of the world as we know it' scenario is left open for interpretation. Is it a nuclear accident? A terrorist attack? A biological phenomenon such as a creeping recombinant virus? A supernatural force? For some viewers that may not matter, for me it does. Like the recent FATHER AND SON none of the many questions raided by the film are ever answered. Unlike that film I want some answers for THE TIME OF THE WOLF. What compounds my frustration is that the viewer and the principal protagonists - Anna (Isabelle Huppert), her daughter Eva (Anaïs Demoustier), and her son Ben (Lucas Biscombe) – are the only ones left out in the cold. Everyone else in the film seems to know what is going on and either won’t answer any of the questions posed by Anna or do so with glib remarks that only hint at one thing or another.

"Michael Haneke certainly knows how to create the right mood. At the beginning of the film a car rolls through a forest. The trees look ominous and somewhat two dimensional, indicating something is missing. When a family of four arrives at their country cabin, they are immediately met by intruders who shoot the father and steal the car and the provisions. Anna and her children are left with a bicycle, a few beverage cans and some tins of biscuits. They begin roaming the hazy countryside for help. There first stop is a neighbor’s where they are turned out into the night without a hint of charity. Is it because they are from the city? As the threesome moves on to a local village, they are given some food by one woman who pleads that they move on before her husband finds out she has offered such kindness.

"Anna, Eva and Ben stumble upon an empty barn in the night. In the dead of the night Anna awakens to find Ben missing. She decides to go looking for Ben using hay as a torch. Eva builds a bonfire near the barn for Anna and Ben to find their way back. Much of what happens in this scene occurs in pitch black. At one point the bonfire appears as a tiny image in the upper right hand corner of the blank screen, giving the viewer a sense of perspective and a frame of reference. The light in the corner becomes a theme of sorts throughout the film. The composition of the night scenes – pitch black with only a hint of light - is truly unique.

"Near dawn when Ben returns he is the captive of a young boy. With urging the boy releases Ben. Eva befriends the boy against her mother’s warnings. The four of them set out on the road hoping to find the railroad tracks where a passing train will rescue them and take them to a safe territory. They find the tracks and a train eventually approaches. But it doesn’t even slow down. It is a freight train with lots of people already hovering in the empty spaces between the cars.

"Ultimately the foursome happens upon a commune of sorts where a group of people trade their valuables for water and sustenance. The group leader is Koslowski (Olivier Gourmet) who acts as spokesperson, deals with the water merchants who mysteriously pass through town, and enforces the rules. Whose rules these are is never established. Koslowski also trades sex for water. The members of the commune bicker and threaten revolt. Their motivation is as hazy as the landscape. The boy traveling with Anna and her children is expelled for stealing. Bea a women also from the city whispers to Anna that she thinks their situation has something to do with the Just, 36 men who roam the earth. Something like a private club or secret agents, only from the beyond.

"When a young child dies, the funeral held at dusk is filmed from the knees down. We see a twig cross being assembled and put in place. We see feet of the mourners. The mourners disperse. Finally we see a light in the upper right of the screen, then a second light, a third, a fourth and finally a fifth. It is a beautifully eerie sequence.

"One night Ben leaves the commune. His mother and sister look for him. His sister finally finds him hovering under an abandoned train car being cared for by the boy. Later Ben wanders alone towards a bonfire. He begins to slowly take off his clothes. As he removes his under shorts a man sees what he is about to do and runs to his rescue before he steps into the flames. He cradles Ben in his arms and says, 'You were ready to do it. That’s what counts.' 'Does it add up?' is the question.

"Together, Isabelle Huppert and Michael Haneke created THE PIANO TEACHER, one of the most unforgettable films I’ve seen. How sad it is to see Huppert with very little acting to do. Huppert reacts a bit to the events around her but this role offers nothing for her to bite into. Biting is what Huppert does best. 2.5 cats"

 
Chris says: "This is one of the most unsettling films I've ever seen (even more so than FAHRENHEIT 9/11!). I don't want to say too much about the plot, because it's best going into it knowing as little as possible, so read on at your own risk. This is a startling change of pace for director Michael Haneke from his last film, THE PIANO TEACHER. I wouldn't go so far to say that there's a total de-emphasis on style, but most of what transpires happens so naturally--yet, it all feels so surreal, too. The cinematography is innovative and unforgettable without being flashy. This film really gets at the essence of human behavior when the world's been irrevocably changed by some kind of crisis. Think 28 DAYS LATER... without zombies, but some sort of invisible, undefined, haunting presence. 4.5 cats"
 
Diane says: "It was indeed unsettling. As a matter of fact, when I walked out of the
Brattle, I passed some people who were speaking French, and I got scared.

"As the blurb on the weekly Chlo announcement said, the situation in TIME OF THE WOLF --scarcity, refugee camp conditions (but here, no administration)--is a matter of course in Middle Eastern, African, Eastern European countries, but France? Kind of an EU LORD OF THE FLIES. I'll nom it for cinematography at least. 4 cats."

 

Emily says: "If you want to be depressed like 10 trillion times over, I mean, to the point where you feel there are no further rungs down on the depressing awful things that could happen to one woman ladder, and then discover there are about 3 or 4 more, go see this film. I love Isabelle Hupert and she is as always brilliant and compelling, but I just couldn’t take this! Its so so so sad and awful without relief that I lose sight of the point. I guess it’s just existential abyss-gazing at its Frenchiest, but please spare yourself unless you are prepared to do yourself in…

 

SPOILERS ALERT!

 

...babies die and I have one so take that as a caveat of my review.

 
Greg says: "Easily one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. And not necessarily in the depressing-yet-insightful-and-cathartic way. If you saw Michael Haneke’s last film, LE PIANISTE, you know what I’m talking about. Hard to take and hard to see the point, except to see how much misery a human can take. Those French…"
 
Michael says: "As has been said in many other reviews, the best way to experience Michael Haneke's (THE PIANO TEACHER) TIME OF THE WOLF, is with as little foreknowledge as possible. Haneke informs the viewer sparingly, and events unfold in a vacuum of knowledge. Realization dawns slowly and adds to the tension of the film.

"So what can be said about this unnerving look at society? Haneke's PIANO TEACHER alum, Isabelle Huppert stars in another fierce performance, this time as a mother of two children who suddenly finds herself leading her family through a terrifying ordeal. Long takes with sparse dialogue and stark imagery convey the story perfectly. Haneke employs a dogmaesque style, using natrual light (to chilling effect in an early night-time scene) and no music save for what is in the story (another powerful scene).

"Many have called TIME OF THE WOLF depressing, but I didn't find it so. It's dark, certainly, disturbing, sure. But there is hope at the end as well, however slight, and perhaps TIME OF THE WOLF is meant to be sobering. 4 1/2 cats"

 
Rick says: "Okay, so of course I didn't 'enjoy' the film, so I suppose the question is whether the experience provided anything of value. I'm just not sure. ? cats.

"My first thought upon exiting the theater was a kind of annoyance that since we're on what I think is a trajectory to have to deal with such a time as a result of something sooner or later, is it really necessary to make me deal with it now? Since we're dealing with a probable future (and present for that matter in the Sudan) this is certainly not an escapist film experience. So I've been thinking about our lives post-cataclysm and I'd really like to know where I can get hold of a pill that will painlessly kill me so it won't be necessary to walk into a fire (my spiritual sensibility does not require such masochistic sacrifice). I figure pills are less messy than a gun, and less dramatic than jumping off a cliff. I just don't want to have to subject myself to such horrors as the screaming of that hysterical mother or of real live horses getting their throats ! slit. And speaking of that scene, does anyone know if that was a real live horse being slaughtered before our very eyes? If so, this film earns my big black square of disapproval. Maybe it was just good special effects? They wouldn't really be mean to the nice horsey would they? :("