Friday, January 01, 2010

Detailed interview with Michael Haneke, his White Ribbon (2009) still forthcoming in YVR.

"Q: You seem very interested in the long take. There are a number of static shots in your films, like the final image of La Pianiste. I'm also thinking of shots like that of the blank bathroom wall just before Walter rushes in for Erika, the many shots of Erika's face, the long take of the bloody living room in Funny Games, or the numerous still lifes in Der siebente Kontinent.

MICHAEL HANEKE: Perhaps I can connect this to the issue of television. Television accelerates our habits of seeing. Look, for example, at advertising in that medium. The faster something is shown, the less able you are to perceive it as an object occupying a space in physical reality, and the more it becomes something seductive. And the less real the image seems to be, the quicker you buy the commodity it seems to depict.

Of course, this type of aesthetic has gained the upper hand in commercial cinema. Television accelerates experience, but one needs time to understand what one sees, which the current media disallows. Not just understand on an intellectual level, but emotionally. The cinema can offer very little that is new; everything that is said has been said a thousand times, but cinema still has the capacity, I think, to let us experience the world anew.

The long take is an aesthetic means to accomplish this by its particular emphasis. This has long been understood. Code Unknown consists very much of static sequences, with each shot from only one perspective, precisely because I don't want to patronize or manipulate the viewer, or at least to the smallest degree possible. Of course, film is always manipulation, but if each scene is only one shot, then, I think, there is at least less of a sense of time being manipulated when one tries to stay close to a 'real time' framework. The reduction of montage to a minimum also tends to shift responsibility back to the viewer in that more contemplation is required, in my view.

Beyond this, my approach is very intuitive, without anything very programmatic. The final image of La Pianiste is simply a reassertion of the conservatory, the classical symmetry of that beautiful building in the darkness. The viewer is asked to reconsider it."

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