A Master Stumbles

But memorable characters redeem Happy End

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Happy End
Broadway Theatre
Opens Feb. 9
2 out of 5

Unlike much younger filmmakers, 75-year-old Michael Haneke knows how to incorporate technology into his movies seamlessly. Since the early days of consumer cameras, Haneke has been fascinated by the growing accessibility of video recording, and knows exactly how to integrate the medium into his films: by leaning on his less than glowing perception of humankind.

In Happy End, smart phones play a huge role. We are introduced to the Laurent family via the only teenager of the bunch, Eva (Fantine Harduin) who records her mother “accidentally” ODing.

The rest of the clan is not much nicer. Anne (Isabelle Huppert) has an iron grip on the family’s construction business, but not on her wayward son. Her brother (Mathieu Kassovitz, Amelie) has all but abandoned Eve with her troubled mother and is not thrilled with the idea of becoming her guardian again. Lastly, the Laurent patriarch (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour) is determined to die, but no one is willing to help him.

Haneke’s scorn for the bourgeoisie (self-centered, clueless) is present, same with his trademark black humour, but there is something missing. Most of his previous films are laser focused in their critique (violence as entertainment in Funny Games, patriarchal tyranny as responsible for Nazism in The White Ribbon). In theory, Happy End denunciates progressives’ charitable spirit towards immigrants, but you wouldn’t know it from just watching the movie.

Strong turns by Trintignant, Huppert and Harduin as the possibly sociopathic Eve rescue the film from oblivion, but still it’s a chore to get through. That said, “bad” Haneke is still better than most films out there.