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Austria 1994
Directed by
Michael Haneke
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

71 Fragments Of A Chronology Of Chance

The final of Michael Haneke's trilogy of films portraying profound emotional alienation does not have the intensity of its predecessors The Seventh Continent (1989) and Benny's Video (1992).

Basing his story on a real occurrence, when a Viennese university student went on a shooting spree in 1993, killing three people before turning the gun on himself, the director makes the snapshot approach which featured prominently in those earlier films and makes it the entire narrative principal, using (I assume) 71 interlocking fragments of varying length to compose a portrait of the profoundly alienated state of contemporary Austrian society. Somewhat like the puzzle which is highly visible motif that runs through the film, Haneke's conceit is formally engaging but lacks overall emotional effect even if it does at times capture upwellings of quiet intensity (notably in the exchange between the security guard and his wife over dinner).

If the two previous films had very strong thematic organizing principles, they also had a fairly conventional dramatic focal point - in both instances a nuclear family in crisis. Here there is no such structure. Whilst Haneke's translation of his critique of bourgeois capitalist society into filmic form continues to impress for its relatively non-didactic approach (or the way in which the felicitous moments outweigh the didactic ones), the extrapolation of the distancing techniques of the earlier films is now more akin to a documentation of a group of characters that whilst no doubt intriguing to Haneke as the puzzle-maker, leaves us as the audience rather indifferent to their fate.

DVD Extras: Interview with Haneke about the film.

Available from: Madman




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