Michael Haneke, who is currently experiencing orgasmic reviews for his latest film Amour, is the subject of this documentary that was made slightly earlier in his career, just prior to Caché but after his critically acclaimed film The Piano Teacher – while making Time of the Wolf, in fact. It follows him on the press tour for the film, and also while he’s shooting the film itself as a look at his working methods. We see Haneke the man, Haneke the artist, and Haneke the entertainer as he gives interviews and answers questions from the audience at a screening of his film.
The documentary, while worthwhile in that it is a close look at one of the best directors working today, suffers as so many other works in this field do by being a little too distant and reverential to the subject matter. While it might well be intimidating to be faced with such a commanding presence, he demonstrates that he has enough humour about his style and work to accept at least some criticism, or at least the occasional light jab. Too often, Haneke’s words are taken as gospel, especially in the Q&A session for the screening of Time of the Wolf – directing the film doesn’t give him final say on what anything means. In fact, Haneke does say that he can’t explain anything about his films – and that he has no business doing that anyway – before going on to give what are his opinions, which are then treated as fact.
This is a minor beef, but one that crops up time and again in these documentaries. One might say that if it was a more critical look at him and his work, then it would not have been included on the DVD of The Castle, but then it could also be argued that perhaps he wouldn’t see the point in making a mindless piece of self-indugent puffery? This documentary isn’t that, in any way, but it would have been nice to have seen a little bit of edge to the conversation, to tease some more detail from the man himself.
It’s nice to see him in unguarded moments, conversing with photographers and journalists, and a conversation with him that also involves his wife leads to some englightening moments but all the while he remains frustratingly separate, sort of like a emotionally unengaged parental figure constantly watching over the production, never getting too involved.