This week sees the latest film from veteran European filmmaker Michael Haneke, Happy End released across the UK. Following 2012's brilliant and heart-breaking Amour, and also previous work such as the brutal Funny Games, The White Ribbon and Hidden, Haneke once again brings us an important, topical and ironically titled treat.
Haneke’s films are often controversial, dystopian and provocative with themes of family dysfunction, and of guilt, revenge and repression, and Happy End is no stranger to this winning icy formula. Impending implications of modernity are both hilarious and horrific as technology and surveillance merge with social broadcasting and bourgeoisie family angst.
Set in Calais against a backdrop of desperation, refugee camps and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions, Happy End follows an upper middle-class French family trying to maintain normality.
Isabelle Huppert is on fine form as Anne, head of the family, and the family business. Anne is surrounded by a family full of familiar faces - Mathieu Kassovitz (Amelie), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour), Franz Rogowski (Victoria) and there’s even a brief appearance from brilliant British actor, Toby Jones (Tale of Tales.)
The family is thrown into turmoil when 13-year-old Eve is sent to live with her estranged father due to unusual circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. Among the already fractious family, Eve seems to be the final piece of the broken jigsaw, and as secrets are already bubbling just below the surface it isn’t long before the house of cards begins to fall apart.
As with many previous Haneke films, Happy End offers a criticism of the modern middle classes and the ways in which the communication in the family continues to demonstrate their lack of humanity. It is clear that Haneke is not a fan of smart phones, but his use of them to illustrate multiple screens and perspectives is a great element of what is a dark satire throughout, that touches on murder, intrigue and immigration.
This weekend, the Showroom also welcomes back the graduates of this summer’s BFI Programming and Distribution residential course, as the young people involved bring to fruition their film programme, Shifting Focus – A Day of Illusion and Deception.
Combining screenings of Czech animation maestro Jan Svankmajer’s Alice and Christopher Nolan’s Inception with one-off VR experiences, a zoetrope workshop and maybe even some culinary delights - the team behind Shifting Focus really have provided a Saturday full of treats.