×

Time of the Wolf

Among the cinema's many visions of the apocalypse, few have resonated with the chilly precision of Michael Haneke's "Time of the Wolf." This masterful film keys into the current global climate of fear and uncertainty. But Haneke's stripping down of humanity to its bare essence remains tough for many viewers, which will make pic a difficult go commercially.

With:
Anne - Isabelle Huppert Mr. Azoulay - Maurice Benichou Ben - Lucas Biscombe Thomas Brandt - Patrice Chereau Lise Brandt - Beatrice Dalle Eva - Anais Demoustier Georges - Daniel Duval Mrs. Axoulay - Maryline Even Koslowski - Olivier Gourmet Arina - Rona Hartner Nathalie Azoulay - Florence Loiret-Caille Bea - Brigitte Rouan Policeman - Branko Sanarovski Young Runaway - Hakim Taleb Jean - Thierry Van Werveke

Among the cinema’s many visions of the apocalypse, few have resonated with the chilly precision of Michael Haneke’s “Time of the Wolf.” Pic’s set in an unspecified time and place, during the aftermath of some great, unspecified tragedy and at the dawn of perhaps an even greater one. This masterful film, coming two years after Haneke’s international triumph with “The Piano Teacher” and shown out of competition in Cannes due to the presence of jury president Patrice Chereau in a supporting role, keys into the current global climate of fear and uncertainty. But Haneke’s stripping down of humanity to its bare essence remains tough for many viewers (evidenced by the loud jeers at the conclusion of its Cannes press screening), which will make pic a difficult go commercially. Still, a high curiosity factor should lead to brisk international sales.

“Time of the Wolf” is, in many ways, the movie Austrian writer-director Haneke has been building toward: a confident braiding of his concerns over society’s rampant violence (“The Seventh Continent,” “Benny’s Video”), the co-existence of disparate belief systems (“Code Unknown”) and human behavior observed under the most extreme circumstances (“Funny Games”). Often wrongly categorized as an attention-getting shock artist, Haneke is in fact a humanist despairing (in “Time of the Wolf” more than ever) over man’s inhumanity to man.

Popular on Variety

Opening sequence recalls that of Haneke’s own “Funny Games” (to say nothing of the 1980s John Candy-starrer “Summer Rental”). A family from the city arrives at their weekend home in the country only to find that the house is already occupied by another family — a man, woman and young child. The squatters proceed to hold the first family at gunpoint, demanding that they hand over all of their supplies and flee the house.

The husband, Georges (Daniel Duval), suggests perhaps they could all stay in the house together. But his plea is rudely interrupted by a shotgun blast that kills him instantly, splattering his blood over the face of his wife, Anne (Isabelle Huppert).

This unsettling violence — like similar moments that dot the landscape of Haneke’s films — seems aimed at reminding viewers of how complacent they’ve become in regard to human suffering, and how commonplace such scenes have become in movies.

Fleeing, Anne and her two children (played by the remarkable Lucas Biscombe and Anais Demoustier) travel in the fog along deserted roads and through shuttered-up villages. The few people they do find to ask for help are unwilling to give it. Eventually joined by a teenage runaway (Hakim Taleb), the family proceeds to an abandoned train depot, where most of the rest of pic’s action takes place. Like the shopping mall from George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” or the hospital from Jose Saramago’s novel “Blindness” (a clear influence here), Haneke’s depot becomes the locus of activity for the survivors. It is a fleabag Ellis Island of sorts, presided over by a man called Koslowski (Olivier Gourmet), who may (at least in the minds of some) be one of the 36 just men of Jewish and Islamic prophecy.

Using the depot to represent an intersection for mankind’s noble and reprehensible characteristics, Haneke demonstrates profound insight into the essence of human behavior when all humility is pared away, raw panic and despair are the order of the day, and man becomes more like wolf than man.

Yet, this is not a hopeless film.

Although Haneke first developed the idea for “Wolf” nearly a decade ago, it is more relevant in the aftermath of 9/11 and the second Gulf War.

In the film’s extraordinary final moments, Haneke appears to indicate that humans should believe in something, and that something is their untapped potential for divine grace.

Pic is driven by Huppert’s superb, largely wordless performance. Most of the film is set at night, and, shooting for the first time in anamorphic widescreen, with his usual d.p. Jurgen Jurges, Haneke has achieved a series of nighttime scenes that are ravishing, as well as a series of outdoor sequences that frame the actors against a towering natural landscape. The film projects a sense of what a tiny window of time mankind has occupied in the history of the universe, and how quickly he could disappear again.

Time of the Wolf

Out of Competition / France-Austria-Germany

Production: A Les Films du Losange, Wega Film and Bavaria Film presentation, in co-production with France 3 Cinema and Arte France Cinema, with the participation of Centre National de la Cinematogrpahie and Canal +, with the support of Eurimages. (International sales: Les Films du Losange, Paris.) Produced by Margaret Menegoz, Veit Heiduschka. Executive producers, Michael Katz, Margaret Menegoz. Co-producer, Michael Weber. Directed, written by Michael Haneke.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Jurgen Jurges; editors, Monika Willi, Nadine Muse; set decorator, Christoph Kanter; costumes, Lisy Christl; sound (Dolby SRD, DTS), Guillaume Sciama, Jean-Pierre Laforce; assistant director, Hanus Polak; casting, Brigitte Moidon (France), Markus Schleizner (Austria); children's casting, Kris Portier de Bellair. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (noncompeting), May 20, 2003. Running time: 113 MIN. (French dialogue)

With: Anne - Isabelle Huppert Mr. Azoulay - Maurice Benichou Ben - Lucas Biscombe Thomas Brandt - Patrice Chereau Lise Brandt - Beatrice Dalle Eva - Anais Demoustier Georges - Daniel Duval Mrs. Axoulay - Maryline Even Koslowski - Olivier Gourmet Arina - Rona Hartner Nathalie Azoulay - Florence Loiret-Caille Bea - Brigitte Rouan Policeman - Branko Sanarovski Young Runaway - Hakim Taleb Jean - Thierry Van Werveke

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Popular on Variety Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content