Michael Haneke: interview
Uncompromising, austere, rigorously intellectual: Michael Haneke seems like the last director to remake his work for an American audience, and yet that's excatly what he's done. Time Out asks him about 'Funny Games US'
Did you make the US version because the original didn’t reach many US viewers?
‘It’s very simple. The first film didn’t find its public among English-language viewers. So when I had the proposition to remake it I thought maybe we had an opportunity to reach the audience for which it was made: the violent consumer!’
So what do you hope the reaction will be from this audience?
‘I have no real reaction from “normal” audiences yet because it was only the premiere in New York a couple of nights ago. It was a special public: they were friends of the film. But I think the reaction will be as it was with the first film: some will be very enthusiastic, others will be very against the film. I hope so! It’s a provocative film so I hope the provocation works.’
How did you prepare the actors?
‘I said to the actors, “don’t look at the [original] film during shooting,” because it puts a limit on their freedom and they followed that. If you’re an
actor it would be deadly just to copy the original arrangements.’
But as a director that’s more or less exactly what you were doing. I wonder how you found the process.
‘It’s difficult. If you have a very good moment from an actor, you want to have the same moment from the new actor – which is not very fair. That’s the problem. I worked for 20 years in the theatre and sometimes directed the same play in different theatres with different actors, so I know it’s difficult. But it is also challenging and exciting because you discover new things.’
The film makes us think about cinema and violence. Has cinema become more violent since the first version?
‘Of course. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. In the past ten years the depiction of consumable violence has greatly increased. Something like “torture porn” is a development from the past ten years. The film is now more topical.’
So how aware of ‘torture porn’ examples such as ‘Saw’ are you?
‘From time to time I looked to these films for information but I’m not a big fan, as you can imagine.’
The means by which we can view violent imagery has increased, especially through the internet.
‘Of course. I have an idea for a film about this phenomenon. Just the idea right now; it’s too early to tell. At the moment I’m doing a historical film set in a little village in the north of Germany before World War I. It’s about education, how children are brought up and raised – the generation who become the Nazi generation.’
Do you think of your movie in terms of ‘educating’ your audience?
‘It can influence people, like every work of art, but it’s small. The direct influence is very little, but life would be much less rich without art.’
‘Funny Games US’ opens on April 4.
Author: Edward Lawrenson
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