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Classical music plays on the car stereo, as Anna (Susanne Lothar), Georg (Ulrich Muhe) and their young son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) drive up to their idyllic lakeside holiday house. They make plans to go yachting and play golf with neighbours, everything seems set for a peaceful weekend away. But around sunset Peter, an apparently amiable if awkward young stranger, knocks at the back door and asks to borrow some eggs. This seemingly innocent request turns out to be the first move in a calculated and elaborate attack on the family mounted by Peter and his more suave friend Paul - an attack which gradually proceeds from polite intimidation to prolonged bouts of physical and psychological torture. As the immaculately courteous pair of psychopaths occasionally reminds us, everything that happens is being stage-managed for the benefit of us, the audience.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In his dreadfully effective film, director Michael Haneke has isolated a unique kind of violence and it is emotionally and psychologically vastly different to mainstream movie screen violence. To me, this rather defeats the purpose, because we are let off the hook; this is something OTHER. Worse, perhaps. Audiences will have to do a bit of analysis and introspection on the proferred subject of screen violence.

This is extreme cruelty. There is one scene (I won't spoil it) near the end where Haneke shows exactly what he means us to feel (physical revenge), but this is a single, isolated instance. Haneke's calculating, often static camera, observes coldly, sometimes in extreme close up, often holding a shot for extended periods. The aftermath of violence, its effects on the innocent family, is what Haneke wants us to watch and experience, long enough to have it seep into our own psyche.

It is superbly acted and designed, the direction is single minded, but it will not make you feel good. Strictly for the dedicated film buff.

DVD offers an interview with Haneke Interview, an audio commentary by Dr Hamish Ford, Lecturer in Film Studies at Newcastle University and the original theatrical trailer.

Published May 31, 2007

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(Germany, 1997)

CAST: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mûhe, Frank Giering, Arno Frisch, Stefan Clapczynski, Doris Kunstmann

PRODUCER: Michael Haneke

DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke

SCRIPT: Michael Haneke


RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Interview with director Michael Haneke; Audio Commentary by Dr Hamish Ford, Lecturer in Film Studies at Newcastle University; Original theatrical trailer


DVD RELEASE: May 2, 2007

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