“The film is about the life of Georg, his wife Anna and their daughter Eva over a period of three years: it is the story of a successful career, it is the story of the price of conformity, it is the story of mental short-sightedness, it is a family story and it is the story of a lived consequence.”
BOMB Magazine: And your interest in Adorno?
Michael Haneke: But what do you want to hear? (laughter) When I was young, he was a huge influence. I studied philosophy and psychology, and I graduated with a degree in philosophy. Adorno and Wittgenstein were the two writers who influenced me the most. Now I don’t read as much, but when you are young and sort of looking for a vision of the world, you are looking for people who would influence you, who would guide you. So I’m part of the 1968 generation when everybody was influenced by the Frankfurt School.
One of the other members of the Frankfurt School, Erich Fromm, wrote about how capitalist society reproduces its structures within its members. Your first film, The Seventh Continent, has always suggested to me the ways that we are the victims of the structures that we’ve built.
I think the movie explained that quite clearly. I don’t know what I can add. To me it’s obvious that we create the walls around us, we create difficulties. But this is a banality. Actually, the horrible thing is that people are trying to destroy things that have destroyed them already. And these are things that they themselves have built. There’s an expression in German, ‘destroy the things that have destroyed you.’ This destruction of things that destroyed their lives is not a deliberate action. They destroy the things that have destroyed them in the same painful way that they created this universe that now smothers them. This is the real tragedy because all the destruction that they provoke is not a deliberate act. It cannot liberate them.
It’s a difficult film, I think, for many people.
It’s not a revolutionary film, it’s a bitter film.2