aka LE TEMPS DU LOUP
Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Patrice Chereau, Beatrice Dalle, Olivier Gourmet, Rona Hartner
Director: Michael Haneke
This intriguing film starts with a rather short, sharp shock when Anne and her family arrive at their country holiday home to find it occupied by scavenging strangers. Quite soon we realise that although we are in a world that we recognise, it is a massively altered one. Haneke’s film illustrates highly intelligently, and without being a traditional sci-fi, what would happen just before the end of the world. Supplies of all kinds (food, clothes, water, batteries etc.) have all completely dried up – everyone is on the run and out for themselves, scavenging, like animals – there exists a climate of suspicion, treachery, thieving, and murder. People take clothes off of corpses, kill each other to survive and animals burn.
Anne and her daughter Eva and son Ben, forced out of their holiday home and with their car and provisions stolen, go to the village where they only receive cold shoulders and nothing else. They are forced to stay in an old barn where they meet a young boy savage who takes them towards a group of other strangers, all battling for survival. The place is presided over by ‘Koslowski’ who has put himself in charge as leader. One woman Bea believes he is a saint although he appears to be just a pompous bighead who seems to have all the right trade contacts in the village. The notion of religion and faith is given an interesting examination and how it would be relevant in this situation is fascinating, from what some people choose to believe to try and get themselves through, to others who believe nothing.
But as the environment worsens and desperation to survive escalates, tensions build and explode until the temporary shelter where Anne and family are now staying is flooded with the arrival of lots more people, all waiting in vain for a train to pass to get them to the city, where they hope there might be food or a better chance of survival. The place they all come to be based at, which looks like an old school of some kind, starts to resemble a concentration camp. Ironically, the train becomes the symbol of their hope to get them out of this unbearable situation to freedom. The fact that there is only one piece of music in this entire film (and only through a radio – not even over the title or end credits) shows the extent of its bareness, harshness, and bleakness that not even the joy of music is possible any more, as well as the film being shot all in winter colours and landscapes. No sun is seen (the only fairly constant illumination is fire, a very potent symbol, perhaps of damnation) and a lot of the film is shot in half light, dark or fog.
The worrying thing about this film is that it’s so believable it’s terrifying. A truly original and brave piece of work, a must-see that’s refreshingly different from all those US end of the world alien disaster movies.