The high bourgeoisie class had already had its prime time in cinema. Their universe receives a deep and detailed description in this film, we are in the 21st century but the change seems to be more in technology rather than in morals, inner relations, or the way the upper classes relate to the world around – servants in the house, partners and employees in business, or the immigrants of different colors of skin who also populate the Europe of our times. The name of the film, ‘Happy End’ may as well refer to the sunset of this social class or to the mercy killings of the old and suffering.
We know from his previous films that Michael Haneke is not concerned about breaking taboos. This film attacks several as well. The innocence of children is one of them, the young age being seen not that much as an ideal age, but rather as the period when seeds of evil are being sown. We have seen something similar in ‘The White Ribbon‘. The respectability of the old age is another, and the character and interpretation of Jean-Louis Trintignant is the proof. There is decency in his attitude, but it derives from a very different place than the usual convention.
Themes are recurring, but what the attitude of the scriptwriter and director is as non-conventional as ever. One new perspective in this film is the exposure to the Internet and to social networking. These play an important role in the story, part of the characters share their feelings and send their hidden messages in the apparent darkness of the digital networking. The sharp critic of the director towards the surrogates of human communication is evident, but he also borrows brilliantly the format of the smartphones screens and uses them to open and close his film.
Happy End is (almost) another masterpiece by Michael Haneke.
Drama | France/Austria, 2017 | 15| 26th March 2018 (UK) | Curzon Artificial Eye |Dir. Michael Haneke |Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Toby Jones | Buy:[Blu-ray]
Making of Happy End