There’s a moment in Time of the Wolf where Eva, the daughter, asks to listen to some music a man is playing on a tinny tape recorder. Beethoven. I suppose I must have stolen that moment. And many others as well. Although I was never particularly aware of the impact the film must have had on me. Until I saw it for the second time, last night. The first time, if memory serves me well, and I’m far from convinced that it does, was in the flat of Mr C, when he still owned the flat in Kilburn, before he moved to Archway and then headed East. It was always a pleasure to work in that flat, with it’s kitchen/ living room and marble worksurface. It was a productive space, from within whose walls emerged the first film we made, a blend of Cortazar, Woman of the Dunes and other random influences.
Haneke’s film must have made its points. It was, as ever, far preferable to see it on the big screen in Cinemateca. Haneke’s films are like way stations. Each one defining in their pared back austerity the state of the world and the state of your life. Last night, there were no more than half a dozen people in the cinema. They don’t know what they’re missing. An old man at the end said, as we left, that the film grabbed you from the start. He was right. The start which seems like a homage to Funny Games, as a middle-class people-carrier noses its way through the countryside with no idea of what it is about to confront.
However, in spite of the film’s savage opening, this is a gentler, more humane piece of storytelling than Funny Games. We assume that everything’s going to go all Cormac McCarthy on us (ie The Road) with horses eating one another and humans too. But somehow the savagery is kept in check. It’s internal, even, curiously for Haneke, poeticised. There remains the suggestion that beneath it all he’s a repressed Romantic, searching out the humane within the disjointed chaos of a world which has, more or less, forgotten what it means to be humane. There’s something about the messianic figures who arrive bearing torches which suggests that Haneke believes there might be hope after all; that one way or another once we rid ourselves of all the junk that weighs us down we’ll remember what it means to belong to a community. And learn to breathe again.