The Seventh Continent

With The Seventh Continent, Michael Haneke holds up a mirror to the 1980s Austria that surrounds him with determined focus and white-hot rage.

Haneke’s film attends to the day-to-day life of a middle-class Austrian family as they shop, eat, shower, work and commute.

From between the closely-cropped, fragmented scenes seeps a hard-to-place unease. What first seems like by-the-numbers bourgeois ennui starts to build to something more.

As the years wear on, the family seems to be plotting some form of escape.

A repeated scene of an idyllic beach – apparently gleaned from an Australian Tourist Board billboard – recurs dreamily. Could this be their destination, and the “seventh continent” of the title?

Many dark surprises lie in store – but it’s no surprise to find that their emigration will be far from conventional.

Michael Haneke said he set out to make a film “without answers”, in response to the tendency toward sensational explication in popular culture.

With its narrative unabashedly oblique, the film’s powerful coherence is determined more by rhythm and visual pace – Haneke has said he thinks of film as closer to music than literature.

The film is full of loaded images to do with sight.

The mother works as an ophthalmologist. The whole family stare sightlessly at TV screens. And, in an unshakeably ominous early scene, the daughter pretends to have gone blind at school.

All these moments seem to underscore the film’s self-reflexive interests: in the ways film itself can reveal and occlude, and in voyeurism as well as verisimilitude.

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