Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Overstreet

Code Unknown

Recommended Posts

I highly recommend you all get hold of this film and watch it... at least twice, even if you don't enjoy it the first time. It is vastly rewarding. We had a fantastic discussion here at Cornerstone, and I was amazed at the way the group went from bewildered to excited while we talked. There were some amazing observations made by J. Robert Parks and some of the other folks attending the film.

And since I razzed him so badly about 28 Days Later, I gotta tell you, Stef stepped up to the microphone and hit the ball out of the park with some brilliant observations of his own.

I really think this may be the most complex and important art film of the decade so far. And Juliette Binoche's performance is second only to her work in "Blue", in my opinion.

A teaser: The film is about a group of people living very different lives, experiencing very different economic pressures, possessing very different attitudes toward other types of people. Like "13 Conversations about One Thing", it splinters into many stories. But take note... every scene in this film is a one-take wonder. And the cast is a phenomenal ensemble.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw this last night and I would be interested in some of the comments that were made in your discussion of the film.

As a whole, I found the film very rewarding, although I do have some feelings of, "What's the point?"

I loved the lack of cuts (except for the film clips) - they really gave me a sense of immersion in the film, as if I was a character. however, because you didn't get traditional edits on things like conversations (like closeups) I found some of the characters, particularly the men, hard to follow.

The film felt like a French version of Short Cuts (and I mean French in style)- a great story of how people interact and how their lives are intertwined. But whereas Short Cuts had some degree of the improbable (the insecticide spraying helicopters and the earthquake - both at the right moments) Code Unknown felt much more "likely." From my perspective, that is a strength for Code Unknown.

I guess what is weird for me is that you have this beautifully acted, choreographed and filmed movie that shows how difficult it is to live in a modern society with other people and then the moral (or perhaps a moral of the film) is be nice to people when you encounter them. This is obviously a simplistic overview of the film and I am sure there were other intentions on the part of the film maker and I would be interested to know what other people thought or took away from the film.

SPOILERS

I guess one of the great things about Code Unknown is that I have all these questions (like why did she change the code for her apartment at the end of the film ) that aren't the result of plot holes, but of various different interpretations.

One final note - the film reminds me why I tend to like foreign films so much - they show before they tell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a lot to say about this film, but I'll get back to it when I have time. In the meantim, here's a review from Strictly Film School:

http://www.filmref.com/directors/dirpages/haneke.html

In an age of a borderless, new European economy, the volatile encounter of four people on an anonymous Parisian street underscores the underlying social disparity inherent in any increasingly multicultural, contemporary urban society. A brash, impatient young man named Jean (Alexandre Hamidi) accosts his older brother's girlfriend, an actress named Anne (Juliette Binoche), on the street after being unable to reach her on the telephone. Attempting to gain alliance against their father (Josef Bierbichler) from his brother Georges (Thierry Neuvic), a photojournalist on assignment in the Balkans, Jean, without solicitation, begins to complain to the polite, but hurried and preoccupied Anne, of his objection to his father's unconsented plans to renovate the family's farmhouse with the expectation of apprenticing him to assume eventual responsibility for the farm. Pressed for time and unprepared to appropriately address Jean's personal issues, Anne attempts to placate him with a snack purchased from a nearby vendor and gives him the keys to the apartment, providing a terse reminder that he cannot stay indefinitely. Jean's frustrated attempts to voice his grievance leads to a thoughtless act: discarding his crumpled paper bag into the lap of an undocumented immigrant from Romania named Maria (Luminita Gheorghiu) who is panhandling near the entrance of a cornershop. A principled and tenacious music teacher of African descent, Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke), witnesses the humiliating episode, and confronts Jean to demand an apology. The altercation soon draws the attention of the police who seem to quickly side with the young transgressor, duly noting Jean and an interfering, tangentially aggrieved shop owner's complaints. Eventually, the well-intentioned Amadou and inculpable Maria are officially detained.

Michael Haneke creates an intelligently constructed, compelling, provocative, and relevant observation on social inequity, the untenability of cultural assimilation, and the failure of communication in Code Inconnu. Presented as a series of dissociated (and intrinsically ethnographic) episodes on the lives of the principal characters following the fateful (though seemingly trivial) transection, Haneke examines the ingrained social divisiveness, moral complacency, and created bounds of human interaction. Chronologically indeterminate events, interrupted dialogues (often truncated in mid sentence), prolonged transitional fadeouts, and recurrent episodes of missed (and mis) communication (Jean's unsuccessful attempts to reach Georges and Anne; the mysterious letter left on Anne's door seeking help, perhaps written by an abused child living in a neighboring apartment; Georges' inability to unlock the front door of the apartment building after the access code is changed) pervade the film's fragmented narrative structure, exposing the flawed perception of cultural integration and social equality in the constantly evolving racial and socio-economic demography of a traditionally monoethnic society. The exquisitely wordless, extended final sequence, articulated solely through the consonant rhythm of an outdoor performance by Amadou's deaf music students, illustrates the innately human capacity to transcend the artificially imposed barriers of cultural perception and bias to communicate through the universal language of community and compassion. However, in the frenetic pace and ambient cacophony of a claustrophobic, modern existence, human expression is often only valued for its measured distance and tolerated silence.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nate,

I just bought Code Unknown tonight on ebay. Sorry i've been so quiet on the subject lately --

I only caught the last 20 minutes or so at the Flickerings Festival, but even that much stirred me into wanting to see it again. I keep thinking about this movie... I am hoping to review it for the Film forum's DVD section in a few weeks. What a knock-out film.

I also bought The King is Alive, which should arrive next week as well, and i already own

The Celebration. i think these are the best films i've run into since i first discovered Kieslowski seven years ago. Last month i honestly felt like i was on fire with great film experiences, so much that i'm now in a cooling off period and haven't even seen one film yet this month

(aside from the short films at Flickerings).

SPOILERS

As far as what came to me personally when i watched the ending and listened to a brilliant discussion that was happening at Flickerings, the realization was that the whole film is shot in side to side, horizontal motion, particularly the scenes on the streets of Paris at the beginning and end. Even the subway scene has the depth of a horizontal line in it, from the back to the front. (what an amazing scene, did Juliette Binoche not perfectly capture the emotional outburst that would've been required there? She was amazing, in my book, her greatest performance ever.) The more i thought about it, even the deaf percussion ensemble was in motion, right to left at the end of the film, while simultaneously communicating with a hearing audience. Most critics have said that a theme in the film was miscommunication. I disagreed. I believe that it's about communication, only without words, as if breaking the bonds of language down and getting to the reality of the message. I saw this in both the horizontal relationships we have in life (thus the sweeping camera motion), as well as the vertical that we are all destined to try to figure out. I believe, and i'm not sure about this so i'll watch again, that the only time a character really looks up is because of a code he cannot crack (in the final scene), and then when he realizes that looking vertically does no good, he's back to the taxi and back to living and communicating solely on his horizontal plane. Did he or will he receive an answer from above? Could be anyone's guess. Will we ever understand the motions of the deaf person in the final frame? Not unless someone translates it for us. It seems to me that if Haneke is saying anything at all, it is that language is sometimes a barrier to meaning more than a help, and in order to get past the problem of language you need to look into person's eyes and see their heart. And who ever bothers in all of this mess of poverty, race and status relations, to check the heart of their creator? ... There's a lot of cruelty presented in the story, too, and i think that with the bulk of the people never finding the relationship that lies on that verical plane, they won't be capable of much more than being cruel to each other.

I guess that could just be my hyper-sensitive spiritual upbringing, but that's one of the things i saw in the film, and i feel i'm onto something here but not quite there yet. Another glance will do me good.

The greatest embrace in the story happened during strong winds that were moving horizontally from the right to the left, as if on that roaring line two found each other, without language, without words, but in a way that had more passion and meaning than a thousand words could muster up.

There's also the theme of the cruelty of watching another's tribulations and not acting in defense of the needy. Sometimes we ask the needy to move down the street to beg -- it's too unsightly outside our store. Sometimes we go to another country to take pictures of another people's trial times in war. Sometimes we take pictures without the permission of a person we don't know. The director plays on this theme and is cruel to his audience a few times as well. In fact, once in our discussion at Flickerings there was a man who was confused as to who Anne was (Binoche's character) and then who Anne's character in her film was.

It's late. I'm rambling. This film does that to me. More later. I'm gone.

-s.

PS - Asher or anyone from the area who hasn't seen this... You need to see it. I'd be willing to have you over or loan it out after i get it next week...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stef,

Thanks for the perspective. I've been thinking a lot about the film since I saw it and the more I ponder it, talk with others, and read about it, the more my appreciation of it grows. I do feel that at first glance it can appear to be a simplistic moral tale of being nice to people. But as I mull over the depths of the story (and acting) the more I see this is not so.

I too loved Binoche in the subway scene - amazing!

One question - what was up with the African characters? I didn't quite get the mother talking to what appeared to be a therapist and then the arrival of what I assumed was the taxi driver father in Africa off a boat. I also didn't catch that the man in the opening scene that accosts the brother was the man who was leading the drum band (which I also didn't realize was deaf). Come to think of it, there is probably an awful lot that I missed - I must watch it again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's the correct quote I mangled at the Flickerings discussion (but even the mangled version seemed helpful enough to spur Stef to take the discussion to a new level!):

"Morality," Cahiers du cin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yeeeeah boy, mad props to the brutha from anotha mutha

(that's me)

-s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does this have anything to do with what they often said in Cahiers: Aesthetics should become ethics? (Or something along those lines.) Because this is the only discussion that has helped me to make heads or tails of that statement.

I'm interested in this discussion, but skeptical. The big aesthetics/ethics debate of my generation was "Is the syncopated beat inherently evil?" Or the Schaefferian suggestion that abstract Modern art was primarily an expression of the post-Christian mind. Does anybody here really want to defend the position that the tracking shot is inherently more ethical than the conventional shot-reverse-shot? I wish somebody would, because I'd like to get a little more illumination on how people could think that way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an attempt:

The New Wave is a reaction to the standard mercenary conventions of 1950's cinema. It is as much a socio-political statement as it is an aesthetic one. Thier camera work and production methods say: "To commercalize film is to commercialize humanity."

New Wave techniques are an attempt to reach Bazin's asymptote metaphor. That film and reality are virtually identical, only seperated by the width of a bit of film on the cutting room floor. To "do film" any other way, or to utilize any other aesthetic, is unethical. It is unethical because film is a medium of the real, and thus "doing film" any other way is a lie.

(Short, plot driven tracking shots, fancy editing techniques, contrived sets and scenes, these all are unethical. They manipulate the story and the audience, they are like meaningless statements in analytic philosophy.)

If I understand that literature correctly, this is the argument. And thus aesthetics become ethics because aesthetics are the arbiter of the real. They are our means of contact with the real.

But I don't think I agree with this. There is something slightly askew about it and I think it has to do with the early Cahier's fascination with the "real" and with "existence".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll play the "dumb guy" in this discussion.

Jeffrey, I took your strong recommendation and watched "Code Unknown" last night. Like a lot of acclaimed French movies (see my comments on last year's "Time Out"), I found the film interesting aesthetically but, in the end, rather cold and unrewarding.

You say I should see it twice, and I think you may be on to something. I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy "Time Out" more on second viewing, too. But on first viewing, "Code" comes across as self-consciously arty and off-putting. I liked some of the characters, some of their stories, but so what? What does it all add up to? The explanations you have, and that you quoted from the external review, don't really tell me much.

This will probably get you're ire up, but I watched "Code" a couple days after seeing "Thirteen Conversations," and although "Conversations" struck me as gimmicky, it also connected with me on a much deeper level than "Code Unknown." And Alan Arkin's performance in "Conversations" is, I'd argue, just as strong as Binoche's terrific work in "Code Unknown." (OK, maybe Binoche is a little stronger, but I expected her to be great; "Conversations" was the first time I've seen Arkin light it up.)

I'll try "Code Unknown" again some day, down the road. Give it more than 12 hours to sink in, ya know? smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who'd quibble with that? They're both great films.

I do think that 13 Conversations connects with its audience at a more accessible and quicker pace than Code, which is why the token comment around here seems to be "See it twice." Maybe that's a little unfair, as it puts the film in a haughy light, but for some reason it just seems to work better that way.

-s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

13 Conversations is also about ethics, whereas Code Unknown is about something more speculative and abstract. 13 Conversations is about the choices we make, Code Unknown is about miscommunication, the various "codes" we require in order to truly connect, how we can be drawn in by certain signs and still have no idea what is going on. It's like the difference between reading short stories and reading a psychology text.

It seems to me that Code Unknown aims to accomplish something extremely difficult, and requires a great deal from the viewer. 13 Conversations, while more challenging than your typical American film, has fairly simple aims and requires some reflection, but is not nearly as complex or demanding. I can think of several films that do what 13 Conversations does, but I've never seen another Code Unknown.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well put.

Man, as far as identifying the issues of illegal immigrancy in Europe, Dirty, Pretty Things has nothing on Code Unknown. The way her story specifically plays out is stultifying to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's interesting, too, having just watched La Pianiste and Funny Games, and thinking back to several conversations we've had about how a director can sometimes "stumble upon truth." Haneke's seems to be the kind that either chooses to full-on shock/surprise you (i'm thinking here of when prim and proper piano teacher Isabelle Huppert first walks into the video arcade) or pull the rug out from under audience's feet (i'm thinking here of the nod and winks or the use of the remote control in Funny Games). Regardless, his past indicates to me that he really doesn't care much about truth, and offers less resolution for characters he martyrs than even Von Trier when he constantly abandons his female leads. The difference is that Haneke, in the two films listed above, almost seems to be doing it in the audience's face to mess with their minds. How he managed to create Code Unknown baffles me almost as much as trying to figure out where PT Anderson came up with Magnolia.

-s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good points all around. I remember being a bit shocked at the integrity of Code Unknown as such a brilliant drama after being exposed to what you have seen in his other films. I remember being pretty miffed at the end of La Pianiste, much more so than at the end of I Stand Alone which although I did not see it coming, seemed fitting. They really are very close to one another in form.

I often wonder too at how something like Magnolia comes about. The sheer amount of themes and identities Haneke stirs up in Code Unknown is mind boggling. Just the juxtaposition of the deaf children trajectory with the Sontag influenced take on human suffering in the media is more than enough for one film. But then you have the Binoche trajectory with the relationship between audience and actor and how that spills over into real life, and the immigrancy discussion that unfolds in the lives of not one but two different families, etc... There is enough for four films here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is enough for four films here.

Agreed. And that, I would argue, is a problem with the film. In an era of low expectations for so much commercial cinema, I don't want to fault well-made films that are thematically dense, but this film might have too much in it.

That's my first impression, for what it's worth.

Also, who wants to defend the abrupt editing and chopping up of the various stories? Do we really gain anything from the way the story is told? I don't have a strong feeling about this one way or the other, but when a filmmaker so deliberately engages in an unconventional narrative style, I like to come away with a strong idea of what he or she was trying to communicate. I didn't in the case of "Code Unknown." I could be convinced, though. I suppose it might have something to do with the way our lives are fragmented, but that seems a little obvious, doesn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do we really gain anything from the way the story is told?

Haneke has made comments in the past about fragmentation, and yes, it is obvious. But juxtapose the fragmentation with another trademark of Haneke's style -- long, even tortuously long takes -- and you have the makings of something really interesting. Especially when, thematically, one of the things he seems to be saying has to do with the problems our fragmented vision causes us -- our lack of context. Hence the discussion about the ethics of the tracking shot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great question Christian, I have kicked that one around alot about this film and may have a few fragments of an answer.

For one thing, you are right, the whole "our lives are fragmented" thing is rather cliche. BUT I have never seen it so viscerally expressed as we see it in the editing of Code Unknown. It certainly sets a different standard for trying to make that point in film such that the very form of a film itself can convey that dislocated sense of existence in contemporary culture rather than just the substance of the storytelling (Try "I Stand Alone" for an even more extreme example of this. Ugh.).

The other thing I thought about the way he cuts off the dialogue like that is that he is doing the exact opposite of what Altman does with sound in Nashville, which is one of my favorites just because of the role dialogue plays in it. Nashville is more of a space than it is a storyline, one in which the camera selects particularities to follow. But in Code Unknown, Haneke takes these really long smooth takes and disjoints them and forces them together even though the edges don't match. I think it helps us to see the relevance of the Code Unknown title, that in film we don't always have to have a key that will unlock the "meaning" behind the editing process itself. Editing, just like war photography (a la Sontag), creates different forms of meaning from images through manipulation. It is a key of sorts that allows us to make sense of the images strung together. But Haneke doesn't allow us any distance from his film through this buffer of manipulation. I think the way he edits maintains an objectivity that we wouldn't get otherwise.

Now even though he does the opposite thing from Altman's seamlessness, we end up at the send place. A new sort of objectivity that occupies the storytelling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Who wants to defend the abrupt editing and chopping up of the various stories? Do we really gain anything from the way the story is told? I don't have a strong feeling about this one way or the other, but when a filmmaker so deliberately engages in an unconventional narrative style, I like to come away with a strong idea of what he or she was trying to communicate. I didn't in the case of "Code Unknown." I could be convinced, though. I suppose it might have something to do with the way our lives are fragmented, but that seems a little obvious, doesn't it?

I was just having this discussion away from the boards yesterday. The biggest difference between La Pianiste and Code Unknown is that the latter is not driven by the characters as much as it's driven by the isolated thoughts of the director. There should be two different motivations for experiencing each of these: In the former, it's the interplay between Huppert, her character's mother, and her student-lover. It's the shock revealed to us at the onset that this character could be functioning from some type of sexual dysfunction, and it's the reaction from others around her (including the viewer) that is appealing. The problem is that Haneke leaves no rhyme or reason as to why the character struggles with this, and he certainly leaves the room underwhelmed in the empty conclusion that lacks a grande finale. No childhood sexual scarring, no dad-was-a-child-molester, no first date-rape scenarios, nada. He offers no why, and that's why i walked away bitter. I guess the question is, does he create the piano teacher only in order to give us controversy and better sell his film, or does he really believe that the beginning and the ending of her struggles are unimportant?

OTOH, Code is not about the characters as much as it's about giving us glimpses at feelings that can turn into deep thought when meditated upon. There was complete resolution, and i felt several points, especially with the deaf children inserted at the intro and the deaf drum choir pacing left to right in the finale. The fact that you were listening to the drum beat thru the entirety of the last sequence really drove the point home, like the mind crushing pulsations at the end of Irreversible. I could feel the snare drum pounding into me: How can we get thru to you. How can we get thru to you. The dialogue, the characters, the narrative structure are all secondary to this central theme of broken people trying to find the ability to really bond, and the crulety some dive into because of the inability to communicate.

-s.

Edited by stef

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To further illustrate the point of my previous post, i just found this, the tagline on the original title of the film:

Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys

-s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

stef:

The problem is that Haneke leaves no rhyme or reason as to why the character struggles with this, and he certainly leaves the room underwhelmed in the empty conclusion that lacks a grande finale. No

childhood sexual scarring, no dad-was-a-child-molester, no first

date-rape scenarios, nada. He offers no why, and that's why i walked away bitter. I guess the question is, does he create the piano teacher only in order to give us controversy and better sell his film, or does he really believe that the beginning and the ending of her struggles are unimportant?

8O

Say what?!

I think Haneke explains the "why" perfectly -- in a way that I, at least, have never seen it done so powerfully on film. In fact, I'd say the main theme of the film is a study of "why."

I think so many modern films take a simplistic and derivative approach to answering why a character has the psychological make-up that they do. We are told, "Because X happened, this character is Y." But that takes the focus off the actual problems that the character has and puts them on the character's symptoms. If there had been a "dad-was-a-child-molester" scenario revealed through flashback or dialogue or what-have-you, the movie would be pointless, in fact, more than that, it would have been nonesensical.

This film is a character study on the piano teacher's "issues" -- not her symptoms, although those are what are physically manifested.

Her relationship with her mother, which is shown to us without any disclaimers ("This is why I am what I am") lets us study her character and reason for ourselves the "why." She's obviously sexually repressed, but that's only a symptom of her subverting control over her own life. She lets her mother rule her and refuses to stand up for herself or involve herself in a meaningful confrontation. In her own mind she has no respect for herself because her mother doesn't respect her as a person. This is fairly obvious when the contents of her letter to her student are revealed. She seeks control because she has none. But she won't do it in any sort of normal sense because she has no respect for herself. Even at the end of the film she would rather injure herself and "run away" rather than face a confrontation with her rapist.

I'm not sure if he is trying to say at the end that people cannot change -- that they, and in this particular case, the piano teacher, cannot overcome themselves or if he's not concerned with those questions in this piece. In either case, it's a sobering character study of a tragic, and I think all too real character. Although not everyone's problems are manifested in the way portrayed here, I think everyone struggles with the issues at the core of the issue: respect, trust, love, growing up and relationships with parents. If nothing else, I think this film is a wonderful example of the falleness of human nature. At our core we long for love and respect and truth and beauty. But by ourselves we cannot grasp or become or enact these things. We will twist them. And that, of course, is where our faith comes in...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, Darryl. That is a compelling arguement for the why. It really made me stop and think --

i hadn't considered Huppert's character's relationship to her mom in the mix, although it was plain as day they were both a little whack.

I think so many modern films take a simplistic and derivative approach to answering why a character has the psychological make-up that they do. 

I agree. There are too many films where there is a pat answer that destroys any of the mystery that had been built up. It really can become as farsical as an evangelical film in which someone gets saved in the final three minutes.

This film is a character study on the piano teacher's "issues" -- not her symptoms, although those are what are physically manifested.

I don't know. If it were about her "issues," then you'd be dealing with more than just a snapshot of a week in her life. We don't ever see her issues or the things that have taken root in her life and made her the way she is. All we see is a bizarre sex fiend who may have been raised sexually repressed, might have some mental problems and ends up in bed kissing her mother.

I'm not sure if he is trying to say at the end that people cannot change -- that they, and in this particular case, the piano teacher, cannot overcome themselves or if he's not concerned with those questions in this piece. In either case, it's a sobering character study of a tragic, and I think all too real character. Although not everyone's problems are manifested in the way portrayed here, I think everyone struggles with the issues at the core of the issue: respect, trust, love, growing up and relationships with parents. If nothing else, I think this film is a wonderful example of the falleness of human nature. At our core we long for love and respect and truth and beauty. But by ourselves we cannot grasp or become or enact these things. We will twist them. And that, of course, is where our faith comes in...

Great paragraph, except its ending sounded like a third verse tacked onto a major release Nashville ccm hit. wink.gif

She may be a very real character. And Huppert was brilliant in this role, i'll give you that. But i needed more than just obscure imagery to explain to me why she acted in the ways she did. Perhaps not as wrapped up as you mentioned before that would defeat the honor of the film, but i needed something more in there to make me care. So she goes to video booths and sniffs the tissues men have left behind. I find that repulsive, and don't really care much more about her than that action in itself permits. So she needs to be the one in charge and wants to write down everything that is permissable in a letter to a would-be lover, and then what she writes down is sickening and humiliating. Again, it's really not all that interesting when we only get the quick glimpse of her that we get. In fact, it might not even be that interesting even if we knew more about her.

OK BACK TO CODE FOR A MINUTE

I'm working on a review for Code this week and i have a serious question about this whole tracking shot issue. The quesiton is this: Why should i care what Luc Moullet has to say about morality? What gives him the right to declare a particular kind of shot more "moral" than others? And don't you think it rather entertaining when people try to tackle the subject of morality in film outside the realm of faith? Isn't calling something in film "more moral" actually declaring an absolute standard? And who decides where the standard comes from?

Also this -- in the opening nine-minute shot we see the fight that breaks out between Jean and Amadou over the morality of the way Jean acted towards Maria, the Romanian immigrant. We see all this thru the lens of the "more moral" tracking shot. When Amadou is taken away, what we have just witnessed is clearly a wrong. So now we have a situation where we have something "more moral" that has just happened, and an "absolute wrong" that has just been commited. In viewing this, have we just been forced to come to terms with a morality higher than we are? If we've seen this wrong in progress, aren't we confronted with the hope for something more?

Again, like i mentioned before, the vertical motion is a display of man's relationship to man, but in the way it's presented here on the streets of Paris there is a direct challenge to our notions of absolutes.

...Yet, the harder i think about it, the more confusing it gets... cry.gif

Anyone have anything else to offer on this?

-s.

Edited by stef

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great paragraph, except its ending sounded like a third verse tacked onto a major release Nashville ccm hit. wink.gif

Great line, except the emot-icon at the end seemed a tacked-on attempt to not sound like such a wise guy. smile.gif

Why should i care what Luc Moullet has to say about morality? What gives him the right to declare a particular kind of shot more "moral" than others?

I have yet to be convinced of the inherent moral superiority of the tracking shot myself. If it's posited as an absolute, I don't buy it. If it's like a Dogma rule, as more of a thought experiment, I find it intriguing, and worth discussing in that context. If memory serves, there were some great tracking shots in Triumph of the Will...

And don't you think it rather entertaining when people try to tackle the subject of morality in film outside the realm of faith?

But wouldn't you rather have intuitively moral people for neighbors than logically-consistent nihilists?

So now we have a situation where we have mething "more moral" that has just happened, and an "absolute wrong" that has just been commited. In viewing this, have we just been forced to come to terms with a morality higher than we are? If we've seen this wrong in progress, aren't we confronted with the hope for something more? Again, like i mentioned before, the vertical motion is a display of man's relationship to man, but in the way it's presented here on the streets of Paris there is a direct challenge to our notions of absolutes.

Haneke wants us to both question moral judgments (because they are so often jumps to conclusion without all the facts) yet also to make moral judgments (about immigrants, violence, the image, etc) -- so he's in a tough spot, and he obviously knows it. The vertical line you identify as a possible indication of his acknowledgement of a transcendent morality impresses me less than the drumbeat at the climax that suggests there are other channels on which moral reality can be communicated than rational ones. Which, in its way, is an acknowledgement of the possibility of transcendent moral reality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like that last paragraph Mike except the oft used term "moral" to describe what is going on in the last scene. It doesn't seem that Haneke is speaking so much there about "ethics" as he is "communication". In the continental post-modern context morality itself isn't necessarily a question, rather the ability for rational communication that is the foundation of ethical "speech/activity" is in question. (The whole: "How can we see face to face until 'till have faces" issue.) So it seems that Haneke is saying in that last beautiful scene that the "code" is not unknown, we can break through, we can communicate across the barriers of contemporary society. And he shows us that this idea is true because he allows us all to see it happening on the screen. That scene really is akin to Linklater's "holy moment" scene in Waking Life.

It seems that he only deals with issues of "ethics" when he is dealing with the Sontag/war photography theme. That last scene addresses our ability simply to get through to each other, which seems to be the answer to the questions that Binoche's acting sequences and the terrible grocery store scene raise rather than the ones about the war photography.

But as far as the "ethics" of the tracking shot are concerned, I am convinced that is a reasonable approach. It has more to deal with the nature of film as a medium than it has to do strictly with "ethics" per se. The New Wave convention that this quote identifies is simply that there are ways to allow cinema to "tell the truth". The very form of a film itself, embedded in the process of editing and ways of tracking and framing determines how closely a film represents reality. A long horizontal pan simply allows us to see a scene unfold. It doesn't direct the viewer's eye, but allows the viewer's eye to become a captain of the viewing process. It allows us to soak up the detail of the scene, it mimics the natural practice of "seeing" itself. So the tracking shot is more "ethical" because it is more "realistic". But to be fair, that quote makes a great point even though it verges on overstating itself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×