Saturday, 13 March 2010


An affluent middle-class family in Austria goes about their daily duties. Father Georg works as an engineer, while mother Anna is an optician. When their young daughter Eva pretends to be blind at school, the couple begins to realise the suffocating monotony of day-to-day life. Anna, taking particular offence at the news of Eva’s charade, encourages her daughter to tell the truth under the proviso that she wouldn’t cause her any harm, but slaps her as soon as she admits what happened. This cycle of repressed feelings, pessimism and pronounced ennui continues over the course of three days, and a visit to Georg’s parents’ house proves life-changing for the family, as they appear to be fulfilling a plan to emigrate to Australia, the idealised ‘seventh continent’ of the title.

In many ways, The Seventh Continent is a very admirable first feature. Michael Haneke’s infamous awkward long takes are used here in the same way they have been throughout his career, establishing his immediately recognisable style. The same can be said for the film’s deceptive pacing – by the time it has finished, the viewer is left to wonder if they really saw everything they thought they did. More unusually, Haneke manages to keep the audience magnetised through what should be offputtingly dull and inaccessible. A sequence where a cashier frantically types in codes for a deluge of items on the conveyor belt succinctly delineates the family’s disillusionment with life, the aggressive sounds of the receipt printer serving as a death knell.

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