the haneke series: 71 fragments of a chronology of chance (1994)

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In the third and final film in his Glaciation Trilogy, Haneke leaves the family sphere and looks at several unrelated characters. Of the three films, 71 Fragments, though still clinical and unattached in its presentation of events, is the most emotional and accessible, featuring characters who could very well be a neighbor or a relative. It shows the degradation of communication in an age when we have all the communication devices we can ever need, our isolation despite the opportunities to connect. I was very much taken by that scene featuring the old man living on his own, talking on the phone with his daughter and granddaughter. It was a “nine-minute, fully scripted” dialogue, but we can only hear the old man, alternately sweet and cruel.

Like the other two films, 71 Fragments also takes a look at the bourgeoisie. Nothing can be more middle-class than stress during Christmas, and altercations at a bank, and how adherence to rules can sometimes make us hoard what little kindness we can impart. When the student, desperate to get money to pay his gas so he could stop blocking the gas station, is turned away “because there is a line”, what happens next makes the bank teller’s and bank customers’ firm stand comical and worthless. What’s a few seconds to spare for a young man so clearly tired, so clearly in need of help? He only wants 300 schillings from his own bank account.

The Austin Film Society quotes Haneke in this entry:

This style of fragmenting his story is in purposeful opposition to “mainstream cinema,” which is peopled by writer/directors who give the impression of knowing everything [about their characters and their situations]. Haneke rails against filmmakers who imply that a character is simply a certain way [a one-dimensionally good or bad person]. Haneke says passionately, “A character is never just this. It’s also that. And all these alsos are often contradictory. That’s what makes life so rich and also irritating. It’s irritating in a work [of art] because we’re used to always having the answer to why someone is like that.”

“You should always rebel against what’s wrong, against evil. You can rebel against that in film by showing it in a way that gives you a desire for the alternative, not in a way that makes it consumable. Dramatic art has never agreed with the status quo.”

Be kind, goddamn it.

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