I suppose that could be it. On a surface level, von Trier definitely aims to push people’s buttons. And I can see how that might irritate a common Mubian. But I guess my issue is that it’s very surface. If you dig deeper, I feel like Haneke is just as much of a button pusher. I still don’t think I’ve ever reacted so strongly (in the negative) to a film than when I saw Funny Games for the first time.
I think we are comparing the current top European directors, a status that Wim Wenders has lost and by the simple comparison of these two to Wenders, we realize how much more in common they have. The shift is quite abrupt.
I disagree that Haneke is more intellectual than Von Trier. Von Trier has more emotional content in his films certainly, but a lot of his ideas seem to come from psychological theories, and relating psychology to philosophy.
For instance, Dogville strikes me as being all about cognitive psychology ideas of attribution.
With Haneke I often get the feeling he’s analyzing something more base and obvious.
“I feel like Haneke is just as much of a button pusher. I still don’t think I’ve ever reacted so strongly (in the negative) to a film than when I saw Funny Games for the first time.”
Yeah, Haneke is as much the provocateur in his own analytic way. But it’s a far colder style. For better or worse, Trier is never as remote from his protagonists (I think both psychologically but also in terms of how he shoots his characters). There’s definitely a more philosophical stance with Haneke. If I had to compare him to anyone, it would be someone like Bruno Dumont.
Perhaps, their offscreen personas might also have something to do with it. Haneke comes off very analytic and clinical about his films while Trier is, well, you know. After the Cannes debacle, I became fonder of his neurotic jackass persona.
SANTINO: I think that Haneke is occasionally a button pusher. and Funny Games is one of his worst films to me for that reason. More often than not, he is just trying to get his audience to think, for better worse, but we could go back on forth on this all week.
“For instance, Dogville strikes me as being all about cognitive psychology ideas of attribution.”
@ Ari -
“Yeah, Haneke is as much the provocateur in his own analytic way. But it’s a far colder style. For better or worse, Trier is never as remote from his protagonists (I think both psychologically but also in terms of how he shoots his characters).”
I think this is true. I admire both filmmakers but Haneke’s characters do seem more distant to me than von Trier’s. This might account for why I’m initially more emotionally involved in von Trier’s characters, whereas I need more time with Haneke’s. Maybe this is why people have an easier time with Haneke? Maybe it’s the initial emotional assault that some people have trouble with when rejecting von Trier? I don’t know.
@ Joks -
I agree that Funny Games is unlike most of his other films. If we’re keeping score, there are more von Trier films that push buttons than Haneke films. I mean, The Piano Teacher and Cache had some pretty horrific moments that were obviously aimed at shocking you. But you’re right, his intent is ultimately to get you to think. With von Trier I think he’s also getting you to think and feel but maybe he takes it to the extreme?
I think I’ve detailed my thoughts on that in other threads. It’s hard to explain without going into detail about certain ideas in cognitive psych such as Insufficient Justification and other attribution related theories.
I’ll try to go over it briefly. Basically, they did an experiment where they asked people to write a speech for a position they disagreed with. In one case, they paid them $1 for this. In one case, they paid them $20 for this. Afterward they asked them how much they were won over by the argument they made.
The people paid $1 were far more likely to change their mind than the people paid $20. Because $20 is enough to say “I’m only writing this because I’m paid”, and $1 is not, so instead of attributing the fact that they agreed to write the speech to the money, they attributed it to it actually being a good argument.
This phenomenon explains the way the Dogville residents treat Grace. At the beginning, she is only helping them out a little, so they attribute their agreement to let her stay to the fact that they like her. Later, she’s not just doing a little, she’s working for them as a slave, so they attribute their agreement to let her stay to the fact that she’s working for them. If Tom had not suggested she double her work load, I think they would have continued to treat her nicely. Or just sent her away out of fear.
But is this true? Wasn’t part of why Haneke did a Funny Games US because he wanted Americans specifically to see his film, almost as if it was directed at them specifically?
I have no idea. I see so many non US filmmakers remaking their films in English with Hollywood actors and funding that I figured it was mostly to get more money and exposure. I haven’t specifically heard the direct reasons from most of the directors though. Are you asking this questions rhetorically? Did Haneke say something to this effect?
I do agree that von Trier seems a bit more outwardly egotistical and his personality a bit more in your face than Haneke. But I don’t know that it’s fair to judge the work based on the man. If I played the devil’s advocate, so what if he says stupid things at press conferences? Should that distract from the work (I suppose for some it does)? In my opinion, these comments are intended to provoke and he’s very aware of what he’s doing. People argued this is the Danish sensibility, although I have no idea if this is true, having never been to Denmark.
I wasn’t suggesting that it was necessarily fair criticism, but I was just answering your question about why he may experience more criticism.
@ Jirin -
You’re explanation of cognitive psychology ideas of attribution is fascinating, especially when applied to Dogville. Has von Trier talked about this as inspiration for his film? This type of study makes perfect sense to me, how we all rationalize and justify things in our own head and how what happens on the outside influences/effects the inside. I think this adds an extra layer to Dogville, which, even without knowing this particular theory, is still a rewarding film. But this also gives evidence that indeed von Trier is much more intellectual than maybe given credit for (and certainly investigating academic dealings in much the same way as Haneke). I don’t know, I guess it would be great to see an interview with him talking about his work on Dogville.
I don’t know what to conclude about von Trier’s attitude toward the audience.
But if we say that he rejects them, or has contempt for them, then what in God’s name might we say about Todd Solondz?
I agree with Jirin that (to paraphrase) broadly speaking Haneke is making pictures about motion pictures,
while von Trier makes pictures about behavior, both making statements about the human condition.
My own rather off-the-cuff formulation is that Haneke= Shirley Jackson, while von Trier=Flannery O’Connor.
I don’t know if von Trier has contempt for his audience. What gives you that impression, Lemonglow? My feeling is that he may be telling an inside joke and for those who get the joke, it’s a fulfilling experience. But for those who don’t get it (or as Peabody stated, “misinterprets von Trier”), his films can be quite off putting.
When I say “inside joke”, I don’t mean he’s creating satire or making fun of something. I guess what I mean is that you either get it or you don’t (whatever it is that you are supposed to get from his films) and if you can appreciate and understand what he’s doing, great! If not, if instead you misinterpret something (such as thinking he hates women), he’s going to laugh at you for how silly that is.
As for Solondz, he’s a whole different beast. I agree he might have contempt for his audience (or maybe contempt for himself). lol
Thanks for the explanation Jirin, much appreciated. My reading of the film is more ‘auteurist’ though, in terms of the cruelty of humans and the suffering of individuals, the persecution of kindness etc ala Dancer In The Dark, but i haven’t seen the film in 10 years.
i’ll keep that in mind when i watch it next. IF i watch it again hehe.
Santino: I’m saying I don’t know if he does or not. But if (as some folks seem to suggest) he really does,
then, as you say, we need a whole new category for Solondz.
And by the way, I think BREAKING THE WAVES is a masterful re-imagining/extrapolation of THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. I have not had a chance to the latest picture, but it’s my chief ambition right now.
I don’t know if that’s specifically what he had in mind, but I do know that Von Trier is aware of those kinds of concepts of psychology. I’m sure that’s not everything he was saying with the film, but it’s the best explanation for why, if they were so depraved, they were so kind to her at the beginning.
^^you could be right Jirin, as Von Trier seems interested in conducting these kind of ‘thought experiments’, but i’ve ever read specific theories or ideas attributed to him. I’m sure they have been though, i just haven’t come across them.
The Five Obstructions is probably my favourite conceptual film of his.
If this is true about von Trier, if in fact he is consciously applying these concepts of psychology in his films, do you think Haneke is as well? Maybe not the same specific concepts, but do you think Haneke also uses the same intentions when exploring the themes he continues to circle in his films? Or is he not that interested in psychology as it pertains to behavior, as von Trier appears to be? Is Haneke merely experimenting with form, with cinematic expectations?
^^I think the more interesting question, which one would be more likely to enjoy Unami burgers?
I’d say Von Trier personally. He seems a little more casual in his demeanor. i think he would be able to handle eating them in a quasi-fine dine setting more than Haneke, who would perhaps find the experience incongruous with his surroundings. and quite possibly psychologically more destabilising than the idea of a family killing themselves because of the emptiness and monotony of everyday life, which is simply a given in his world.
^ Has the Unami burger trend already hit Australia, Joks?
Yeah, I don’t see how illustrating cognitive psychology theories sheds light on the film which is, in addition to the ever present suffering women, more about Von Trier’s idea of America and the corrosive malevolent power of community and conformity. In that sense, Dogville isn’t a bad counterpart to The White Ribbon. I actually like Dogville. While still guilty of the emotional histrionics in his other film (histrionics that I would imagine make Haneke blush), the Brechtian devices lend the film a more distanced effect.
“the Brechtian devices lend the film a more distanced effect.”
I think the best thing to come out of Dogville’s Brechtian devices is Miike’s Big Bang Love, Juvenile A.
Haneke knows what are the ideas he wants to show and knows how to explain this ideas, when you see a movie from him it’s clear that he has knowledge in psychology, while lars von don’t, films like antichrist show it, a film imo made for teenagers and snobs, a film which only impacts the viewer in the gore scenes and not inside you (like the piano teacher, funny games or the seventh continent).
Here we are all snobs, Alex. I even have suspicion there could be a few teenagers on board :-)
By the way, Antichrist is a far better film than Funny Games.
- “By the way, Antichrist is a far better film than Funny Games.”
Indeed. Funny Games is a one-star film, Antichrist is a two-star film.
@Alex ….it’s clear that he has knowledge in psychology…
You can be sure Haneke does have a knowledge in psychology, he studied it in college.
Nonetheless, his films are primarily sociological. Think about Benny’s psychology and we don’t get very far, his motivations are found in society.
Not a big fan of Funny games, my favs from him are The piano teacher and Cache. But we should admit Funny games accomplish it purpose of being a disturbing movie without show any kind of disturbing images. I shouldn’t have said “snobs and teenagers” because i know i generalize too much here, but well the one who wants to get my point will get it. I find Antichrist extremely artificial, superficial and “wanna-be cult movie instantly”:
In The piano teacher i find it amazing how the 2 characters are made (it’s from a book tho, all Von Trier films are 100% original i think), it’s 2 films in 1.
“Think about Benny’s psychology and we don’t get very far, his motivations are found in society.”
There is psychology in The piano teacher, but it doesn’t go very far.
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001) is a considered exercise in empathy. It reflects upon the complex ways in which behaviours and roles can be repeated and adapted by individuals, within and without traditional boundaries. Boiled down here is a symbiotic spiral of action and repression perpetuated by social norms and expectations. This film presents a compelling slice of life whilst interrogating with extraordinary discipline the formal predicates which encase both the film and its protagonist….Erika is a sexual maverick stuck with isolation. She wants to connect with Klemmer but has no idea how to. The onus is placed on social institutions and on those who unknowingly sustain the rigid and restrictive expectations which have repressed her instincts in the first place, allowing abusive patterns to be repeated…..While it may give representation to underexposed transgressive sexual politics, it does not interrogate the internal logic of Erika’s behaviour in the context of her life experiences. Hence it does not clearly debunk traditional perceptions of idiosyncrasy as madness. Haneke’s real interest seems to be in the role of the audience viewing this situation without the assistance of explanation.
Well, tell me why Benny does what he does at the end – any answer that suggests an understanding of his mind is going to be very weak – hardly supportable with specifics.
I’ve never had much patience for those who attempt to intellectualize filmic assault (after all, am I really being assaulted [or raped, to use Haneke’s terminology] if I have to think about it? William Castle understood this better than anyone, I suspect), so I tend to have beef with both of these gentlemen. However, I suspect that the critical difference between the two (which I admit seems to exist), is that, while both men put more of less equally silly content into their films (i.e. the actual ideas that underlie their work seem to me to be similarly shallow), Haneke at least has a modicum of expository and rhetorical tact and ability. Von Trier sees fit to, for example, throw a bunch of obvious Biblical references and sexual violence into a blender (WHAT A JUXTAPOSITION! OR WAIT IS IT?!?!) and figures that the puree that results will be sufficiently conceptually interesting. I actually don’t think it has anything to do with knowledge of psychology or anything of the sort, really.
“^ Has the Unami burger trend already hit Australia, Joks?”
I was wondering the same thing. And it’s Umami, not Unami. lol.
And yes, Umami would be more of a Haneke thing. I feel like von Trier would find Umami too pretentious and would prefer The Counter.
(I realize I’ve confused everyone not living in Los Angeles)
“a film which only impacts the viewer in the gore scenes and not inside you (like the piano teacher, funny games or the seventh continent).”
Well, this is sort of what I was getting at when I created this thread. In my opinion, Antichrist impacted me emotionally in much the same way that The Piano Teacher did. The gore scenes didn’t really do much for me; it was the scenes of emotional (dis)connectedness between Dafoe and Gainsbourg that really drew me in. I’ve often thought that the mutilation stuff was a mistake for him to do because it made it easy for his detractors to point to as evidence of his worthlessness. But really, it just adds to the misinterpretation of his work (which I actually think he’s fine with, in much the same way Haneke is ok if you misinterpret Funny Games) and lessens the impact for some viewers.
So my question would be, if it were the explicit scenes in Antichrist that people had difficulty with, had these scenes not been in the movie, would it be easier to appreciate the film? Would you be able to compare it more easily to a Haneke film like The Piano Teacher?