"Haneke depicts an a post-Apocalyptic France.He conceals the cause and gives no answers.This is a mute end of world aftermath. The title tells us we have reverted back to a medieval back to basics scenario.Performances are emotionless shot dogme
style,with natural light. We, the audience,are literally in the dark as are the main
characters,Anna(Huppert) and Eva(Demestier) and Ben, deprived of security, home,
husband / father,possessions and transport, forced to beg and rely on others.Haneke
doesn’t give his audience the picture,he keeps things undefined. Using blunt realism
he avoids the pyrotechnics of genre movies and sci-fi elements. Exactly what is going
on is never revealed. A lack of information and non-specific vagueness undermines
the film.Sparse dialogue and stark imagery make up for a lack of dramatic variation and convey monolithic dourness. We end up in a depot for refugees,a small commune
with tribal leader. Survivors trade goods for water and women barter sex for food,
children die of thirst. They all await a train that may not come(the one from which
cameras roll at the end onto a sunny countryside?)Stripped of their humanity people can only come together and pool their resources.Where strangers are predators this
kind of collective may help humanity recover.
TOTW strips away our Western complacency and shows a what-if scenario when
others lay claim to your security and social constraints are dismantled. Haneke uses
shock tactics evident in the murder of the father,the real deaths of animals, rape at
knifepoint and xenophobic scapegoating.Women,children and animals have the lowest place in the new hierarchy.Some cut their own throats or wish to sacrifice
themselves. The subtext seems to be ethnic cleansing,refugees and trouble in the Balkans.Extremist religious beliefs of the ‘Just 36’ seem to flourish. The moody
cinematography takes place in darkness,blazing fires the only light source. Fire is both destructive and brings hope. Inside the railway depot is a grey,crepuscular light. There
is no soundtrack.Things are gloomy.This vision of Judgement Day reflects bitter reality for thousands of war refugees each year. The only sparks of hope are Eva’s friendship with with the ostracised outsider figure and Benny’s new found father
figure who saves him from immolation. The ending too is almost cheerful a green
luscious landscape in sunshine from a moving train.
The film for me lacks the coherence of Hidden and the brilliance of Code Unknown.
This film needed a simpler narrative(eg 28 Days Later,Strayed,Shame).For me the
austerity,desolation and violence recalled his earlier 7th Continent. Haneke doesn’t
really work through his ideas of the ‘36Just’ and mostly he doesn’t utilise Huppert’s
considerable talents so she becomes a bystander.Demestier steals the film for me.Haneke is
still to be applauded for taking this subject on as a
thought experiment to test humanity's limits."