By Mónica Delgado
Happy End works at its best as a microscope of interfamily relations, dealing with a story of a thirteen year old girl that refuses to grow up as a social analysis of French high class. Haneke stops in the easy intention to express failures, contradictions or social cynicism, portrayed from evident situations in this bourgeois family, owner of a commercial empire, who lives in a mansion attended by two Arab employees.
It’s easy to portray the baseness of racism and exclusion having refugees or migrants as a starting point. Also, to point social dichotomies in relation to economic powers, from the high point of the elite, becomes also an easy task. Haneke chooses to portray this baseness as a condition of class, and with that he strips naked a family which is rotten on the inside. It also seems easy to develop scenes that arise from a universe already explored in his other films, and that here seem to be frustrated in its development, especially when at the end one sees a conceptual panorama of the film. (Happy End starts and ends with the same idea)
Let’s check the argument better: Haneke describes the interior of a family from the arrival of a little girl from another marriage to the grandparents’ home. This gaze is capture from the register of different dispositives, belonging to social networks and the web 2.o, like the live simulation of the entrance to an intimate place. This part is interrupted by a family note, related to Calais, the place they inhabit. This family note, marked by the intimate and the rarified, talks about a millionaire old man wishing to die, about a “social justice warrior” son in psychiatric treatment, about a doctor who flirts with his lover via Facebook Messenger. That’s how the Austrian filmmaker stops to show the social differences, like he usually does in his cinema, a method which seems to cling to a festival method patented by Cannes. As in Ruben Östlund’s The Square, an urgent need to talk about migrants, refugees and stateless people arise from the performatic, as part of a social conscience, a critique which will be validated and applauded.
Beyond this social scan that Haneke deems as absolutely necessary, such in films like Funny Games of Caché, his film dwells better in the passages that talk about a unhealthy family side, incarnated in the figure of the child, a kind of proto-psychopath, marked with Haneke’s undertones all over. Through this arrival to the family, Haneke discovers some profiles on the oedipal, the thanatic and some child psychology issues, letting us to catch a glimpse of the past and present of the doctor dad, the hospitalized mother and the cold and desolate climate that surrounds the child. A summa of this Hanekean universe that at the end of the day doesn’t stand very well.
Director: Michael Haneke
Script: Michael Haneke
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin,Toby Jones, Franz Rogowski, Laura Verlinden, Aurelia Petit, Hille Perl,Hassam Ghancy, Nabiha Akkari, Joud Geistlich
Les Films du Losange / X Filme Creative Pool / Wega Film / Arte France Cinema / France 3 Cinéma / Westdeutscher Rundfunk / Bayerischer Rundfunk / Arte.
France, Austria, Germany, 2017