On directing > Professionally I am invisible | Michael Haneke

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Michael Haneke

“As a private person, professionally I am invisible.”

“I consider all my films experiments. I consider all my films an experiment, at least in my mind.”

“All movies assault the viewer in one way or another.”

“Film is simply the most complex way you can express yourself.”

“It’s harder to write a story with just two people in a room than with 50 characters.”


The Seventh Continent, 1989

“Film is 24 lies per second at the service of truth, or at the service of the attempt to find the truth.”

“I do think that our perception of reality is fragmentary, and in 20th-century literature, it’s totally normal to not describe reality as something whole and completely transportable and explicable. That’s been accepted in novels. But genre films always pretend that reality is transportable, which means that it is explicable.”

“I like the multiplicity of books, because each book is different in the mind of each reader. It’s the same with this film – if 300 people are in a cinema watching it, they will all see a different film, so in a way there are thousands of different versions of “Caché (Hidden)”. The point being that, despite what TV shows us, and what the news stories tell us, there is never just one truth, there is only personal truth.”

“My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.”


71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, 1994

“There are those who see film and take it seriously as an artistic medium, and others who go to have a good time, to simply be entertained. I have to be careful , because it sounds like I am condemning, or criticizing what people are doing. I have nothing against that, in the same way that some people like rock music or to go dancing, and other people like to go to a Beethoven concert. It’s just that I’m more interested in the one than the other.”

“In all of my work I’m trying to create a dialogue, in which I want to provoke the recipients, stimulate them to use their own imaginations. I don’t just say things recipients want to hear, flatter their egos or comfort them by agreeing with them. I have to provoke them, to take them as seriously as I take myself.”

“At its best, film should be like a ski jump. It should give the viewer the option of taking flight, while the act of jumping is left up to him.”

“I’m not someone who enjoys long talks, long rehearsals. I’m very technical: I tell my actors, you come in, you sit down, you pick up a coffee, you look here, you say the line.
We try it with the cameras rolling, and if it doesn’t work, we adjust it until it does. It’s very simple.”


Benny’s Video, 1992

“I love actors, both my parents were actors, and the work with actors is the most enjoyable part of making a film. It’s important that they feel protected and are confident they won’t be betrayed. When you create that atmosphere of trust, it’s in the bag – the actors will do everything to satisfy you.”

“I learned my business in the theater and in television, particularly working with the actors. You can learn much more in the theater than directing a movie, because then you have no time when you are shooting a movie to really work with the actors. You have to learn this craft somewhere else.”

“It’s more enjoyable to shoot in a studio on a single location with two actors…if they are good.”


 Amour, 2012

“There are really two types of laughter on the part of the spectator. There is the laughter of recognition – which means seeing things you’re familiar with and laughing at yourself. But there’s also hysterical laughter – a way of dealing with the things we see that upset us.”

“I want to make it clear: it’s not that I hate mainstream cinema. It’s perfectly fine. There are a lot of people who need to escape, because they are in very difficult situations, so they have the right to escape from the world. But this has nothing to do with an art form.”

“To me, it’s far more efficient to mobilize the imagination. It’s far more efficient to hear a creaking step, for example, than to see the face of a monster, which usually looks ridiculous, and where you know that the blood is ketchup.”

“You can use your means in a good and bad way. In German-speaking art, we had such a bad experience with the Third Reich, when stories and images were used to tell lies. After the war, literature was careful not to do the same, which is why writers began to reflect on the stories they told and to make readers part of their texts. I do the same.”


Caché (Hidden), 2005

“It’s a fact that people who are in a weakened position, whether physically or mentally, have this perception of the outer world as threatening.
Everything that is unexpected or unknown is seen as a potential danger.”

“What we’re doing for another person is more important than what we’re feeling for them.”

“And I don’t believe that children are innocent. In fact, no one seriously believes that. Just go to a playground and watch the kids playing in the sandbox!
The romantic notion of the sweet child is simply the parents projecting their own wishes.”

“The smaller and younger kids are, the more patient you have to be. But if they’re gifted, then it’s a wonderful present that you’re given by having a child like that in your film… more so than in the case of actors because, for example, if you ask them to play a lion, they don’t then play a lion, they actually are a lion. So, a gifted child is something very special. On the other hand, if a child has no gifts in that way it’s absolutely hopeless and there’s nothing you can do!”


 The Piano Teacher, 2001

“I try to get closer to reality, to get close to the contradictions. The cinema world can be a real world rather than a dream world.”

“Usually music is used to hide a film’s problems. I never use soundtrack; it is always part of the story.”

“Because I’m the author of my screenplays I know what I’m looking for. It’s true that I can be stubborn in demanding that I get what I want, but it’s also a question of working with patience and love. I think it’s a little simplistic to explain a work through the psychology of its author. In other words, that Haneke has emotional problems, so I don’t have to take his films seriously. By using this argument, the viewer retreats from the challenges of the film.”


Code Unknown, 2000

“As a European filmmaker, you can not make a genre film seriously. You can only make a parody.”

“It is boring to have all the answers. Only political people have answers.”

“To decide to film a movie again shot by shot, you must be masochistic to a certain degree because it is a much greater challenge.”

“Mainstream cinema raises questions only to immediately provide an answer to them, so they can send the spectator home reassured.
If we actually had those answers, then society would appear very different from what it is.”


Funny Games, 1997

“A strict form such as mine cannot be achieved through improvisation.”

“To be perfectly honest, I think that as I’m growing older, I’m just growing more impatient. I’ll be very happy if at some point people say,
‘Michael’s grown wiser and softer in his old age.’ But we’ll have to wait and see what my next project is.”

“The film [the white Ribbon] does try to use German Fascism as an example, but not specifically Fascism… the results of German Fascism. It shows how people are prepared or indoctrinated for an ideology… people who are already in a state of repression who have been humiliated by society and who clasp at a straw that’s offered to them. And how that’s then developed into a form of indoctrination.”

“Of course, we avoid death. To know something is inevitable is one thing. To accept, to truly feel it… that’s different.”


White Ribbon, 2009

“I like to write for actors I know and with whom I’ve worked before. You can write to their strengths and weaknesses and write roles that are better suited to them.”

“You cannot hurt animals, so what do I do? I kill the dog first. Then I do it with the boy. You’re not supposed to break the illusion of this being a film, so I make the actor talk to the audience. Provocation is the principle of the whole film [ Funny Games]. It is very ironic. In my film “Benny’s Video,” I depicted violence but I failed to say all that I had to say, so I wanted to continue the dialog and that’s why I did “Funny Games.” The irony is that after I shot “Funny Games,” but it hadn’t been released at all anywhere.”

“If I tell the audience what they should think, then I am robbing them of their own imagination and their own capacity of deciding what’s important to them.”

“It’s much harder to write a script that involves two people in a single location than 20 people in 30 different locations.”

Michael Haneke


Time Of The Wolf, 2003

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