Photo Credit: Yves Montmayeur
2013, 93 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
Michael H. Profession: Director is a really interesting new documentary about Oscar-nominated director Michael Haneke, best known for writing and directing Amour, Caché, and The White Ribbon. This film was made by Haneke’s long-time friend, Yves Montmayeur who interviewed Haneke and his actors and filmed Haneke working on every film of his professional career. What results is an interesting and rich, if not quite penetrating enough, portrait of one of the most acclaimed provocateurs working in cinema today.
Haneke’s films are known to shock due to their unsettling themes and sudden bursts of disturbing violence. When many of these shocking scenes were shown during Michael H., many audience members gasped in horror, showing the effectiveness of Haneke’s technique.
Films like Caché and Funny Games are cold explorations of terror and violence. Haneke’s other films are no more fun, but no less brilliant. One would think that the man behind these horrifying films would be as cold and calculating as his films, but to my surprise he isn’t. The film shows him constantly laughing with his actors and smiling. In one scene, a teenage actor finished his last scene for Haneke’s Code Unknown and Haneke puts his arm around the boy and makes a great scene to congratulate the boy.
Michael H. delves into each of Haneke’s films, and I mean every single one. Using interviews, behind the scenes footage, and actual film footage, Montmayeur shows glimpses into Haneke’s creative process. Haneke himself explains quite a bit about his films, but is very careful not to go into too much detail and give away his own complete interpretation. Haneke’s own unwillingness to interpret his films harms the film in a way because it doesn’t penetrate deep enough. Also, while it is interesting to see Haneke work on all of his films, I would have liked to see him focus on one or two films, maybe The White Ribbon and Amour because it would have allowed the audience to learn about Haneke’s filmmaking process from the beginning to the end of a film, instead of giving brief looks at all of the films (this approach is also somewhat tedious). I would have also liked to learn more about how Haneke works with actors. The performances in his films have won multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival and one has even been nominated for an Oscar (Emmanuelle Riva in Amour). Haneke obviously has a way with actors, as not every director would be able to direct actors through such tough material, and seemingly with ease. Had the film gone more in depth with how Haneke works with actors, it would have felt like a more complete portrait.
Overall, Michael H. Profession: Director is a very solid, yet not great documentary that explores the career and the man behind some of the greatest films of all time. Getting a rare glimpse of this master at work was enlightening, and this should be considered is a must-see for fans of Haneke, yet should be avoided by those that either dislike his films or have not seen them because naturally there are major spoilers for his films in this documentary.