How Do Directors That Are Not Necessarily ConsideredContenders In The Horror Franchise Use Filmmaking and Psychological Techniquesto Make Their Audience Feel a sense of Unease? Throughout this dissertationI will be picking apart and analysing the films of directors such as MichaelHaneke, and Harmony Korine- picking apart films such as Funny Games (1997),Funny Games (2007) Benny’s Video (1992) , Cache (2005), The Piano Teacher(2001), Amore (2012), Gummo (1998) and Trash Humpers (2010).
I will focus on and pin point the ways inwhich these directors manipulate their viewers into feeling fear, angst andunease. Neither Michael Haneke or Harmony Korine and considered to becontenders in the Horror movie scene however techniques that they implementinto their films are notorious for leaving viewers with a feeling of angst,guilt and even fear- things that Horror films often give us an escape from inthe form of a musical score, or a shot/scene cut. I will be analysing bothHaneke and Korine’s films in order to answer the question “How do non-horrordirectors use filmmaking and psychological techniques to make their audiencefeel a sense of unease? People often refer to QuintinTarantino as the leading director when it comes to casting violence on to ourscreens; however Director Michael Haneke’s images of violence are not confinedby the filmmaker into their own sections or scenes. Instead Haneke maintainsthe theme and suggestion of violence throughout his work- using transgressivetendencies t shock us far beyond Tarantino’s use questionably humorous camera techniquesand other the top approach when it comes to blood and gore. Michael Haneke is arguablyAustria’s most acclaimed and controversial Director. Haneke’s 2ndfeature film Benny’s Video (1992) began the re-occurring theme of the desensitisingdisposition of culture based on the tastes of the ordinary (primarilymodern-day technology) Benny’s Video (1992) is an apathetic depiction of death-something that sparked discussion when crowds were unsettled by its nonchalantrepresentation of murder and dysfunction.
Five years on from the release ofBenny’s Video (1992), Michael Haneke released the critically acclaimed FunnyGames (1997)- a film which much-like Benny’s Video caused viewers to questionthe way that physical violence can be questioned in film. Haneke’s filmographyconfronts America’s callous take on violence. In 2007 Haneke took the risk ofre-making Funny Games (1997) shot for shot. However, this time instead of thefilm being in German-French and being shot in Austria, he made the decision toshoot Funny Games (2007) in America, and in English.
This decision lendsgreatly to the moral behind Funny Games (1997) as the film was targeted atAmerican movie culture. Haneke expressed the view that lots of Americans tendnot to watch foreign films, meaning that the point of the first Funny Games wasmissing its somewhat target audience. Re-producing the film in English alsomeant that people around the world will also be able to enjoy the film asEnglish is the most commonly spoken language in the world. Haneke’s largestsuccess as of yet has been Amour (2012)- which earned itself a total of 77awards and 103 nominations at various film festivals across the globe. MichaelHaneke’s cinema has been referred to as “inhumane” however in the lingeringframes following some of his most shocking scenes are when we see his work atits most compassionate. Often we are presented with gruesome deaths in the formof skewered angles, or with the majority of the subject just out of frame.
Itcould be said that this also aids Haneke’s films in being so terrifying-reflecting our own fields of vision, memory and even presence in anenvironment. Benny’s Video (1992) openingscene shows the killing of a pig filmed through an old video camera- much likeone that we tend to see used on special occasions and family get-togethers-paired together with these images, the sound of the pig squealing makes the sceneeven less tolerable. As the scene goes on, the uncomfortableness of what we areseeing naturally leaves the viewer hoping for an end. The end of the viewerstorment is granted through the killing of the pig- ultimately the worst thingimaginable.
Provoking a sense of guilt in the audience. The killing of animals,of whom are arguably innocent bystanders in our world, is something that Hanekedoes to go against the norms of killing in films. It is an unwritten rule inHollywood cinema that neither animals or children should be killed in films. Itis because of this that scenes such as this one, and scenes alike in FunnyGames have such a strong effect on the viewer. The death of the pig isconcluded with the screen cutting to Television static- the frame lingers andwe are left the recollect and take in to mind what it is we have just seen. Inthis scene, the use of an old video camera is used to create a common ground.
Watching footage in this form would usually give us a sense of nostalgia- thispaired with such a gruesome image creates an ironic “realness”, much more thanit would if it was shown in High Definition. The introduction’s hand-heldtrembling and amateur-like shot style is a technique used by Haneke to ensurethat it is seen as an amateur documentary and therefor “real” (Joel Black (NewYork: 2002) “The Reality Effect: Film Culture and the Graphic Imperative). Bennyanalyses the footage he recorded of the animal- pausing, rewinding and playingit over again. The boy soon uses the same equipment he used to record and killthe pig to record and kill a young girl in order to access the footage in asimilar manor with a complete lack of remorse. As Benny kills Madchen, the footage is streamed livefrom his video camera to his CRT monitor in the same room. Instead of Hanekeshowing us the killing through our screen, we are instead shown it throughBenny’s screen, in the same way we were made to watch the slaughter of a pig.Michael Haneke leaves the scene playing on for two minutes with no score, justthe screaming of Benny’s victim and the image crudely positioned barely insight on the television screen, leaving the worst of it down to ourimagination, which in most cases escalates a scene far beyond what could everbe visually shown. Once the boy haskilled Madchen we do not cut away to a next scene.
Instead the filmmaker leavesus to witness the aftermath of the killing in its uncomfortable entirety. Wesee our protagonist walking to his kitchen to pour himself a glass of water.The sound in this scene is kept to a minimal, with the few sounds we do herebeing escalated as though our ears are right beside the objects- intended tocreate a sense of angst and un-ease. Another example of theHaneke’s chilling use of the long take would be in his controversial,postmodern and satirical portrait of violence in modern media. Funny Games(1997) challenges the relationship between entertainment and violence throughcreating an entirely self-aware, meta-fictitious world in which our two maincharacters (Peter and Paul) run rampant.
Funny Games (1997), tells the story oftwo young men whom introduce their selves to as friends of neighbours to afamily on holiday- initially we are unaware of Peter and Paul’s intention, butsooner rather than later we are soon made aware of it when the family is heldcaptive, and tormented. In the scenes that follows the two men kill the familydog- but unlike the visuals of Benny’s Video, we do not find out until themother, Anna opens the boot of her car, revealing the corpse of the family pet.As pigs are killed daily for human consumption, the only way for Haneke to makethe scene hit the viewer hard is to show the actual killing, however many of ussee dogs almost as family members, and the instant shock of seeing a slumpeddog fall out of a car is enough to unease the audience. Once Haneke kills ofthe family pet, we don’t think it can get much worse however the young son, Georgiesoon follows- giving the us the impression that in this film no one, andnothing is safe- not even children.
Breakingdown the viewer by killing off the innocent (children and pets) is somethingthat Haneke enjoys doing in film- as we are unused to seeing anything of thissort in mainstream cinema- even horror. Once Georgie is murdered, the motherand father (Ann and George) are left for dead tied up on their living roomfloor. The next ten minutes of Funny Games does not cut once. We are left to strugglewith Ann, as she struggles to lift her own body, and cut herself free.
Despitethe atmosphere of this scene being undeniably haunting- watching someone tryand cut their wrists free for ten minutes can be monotonous. This is the firsttime we are left alone with the family since the commission first began- andother scenes in which we are without Peter and Paul provoke a similar sense ofboredom (George attempting to dry a mobile phone, and George & Annadiscussing golf with their neighbour). Haneke does this intentionally to makeus long for something interesting to happen- despite knowing that the onlything that will happen will come in the form of Peter and Paul. Prior toGeorgie being killed, Peter is shot by Ann- the only time in the film where theaudience, and the family are shown a glimpse of hope.
We begin to seeclearer how the film will pan off towards a typical happy Hollywood ending.Just as we are granted this glimpse of hope we are quickly punished. Peter canbe seen searching the family’s holiday-home, until he comes across theirtelevision remote. He grabs hold of it and hits “rewind”. The scene is thenrewound backwards and plays out much differently. This breaking of the fourthwall puts us on edge for the remainder of the film and pulls us closer intoplaying a participant- especially when we are directly spoken to by Paul. Thistechnique manipulates the films viewers into becoming a bystander instead of anobserver. These self-referential techniques are used by Haneke to in his words”I’m trying to rape the viewer into independence” 1.
We are toyed with andtormented much in the same way as the two young men play games with theirvictims. Author Catherine Wheatley has spoken on how “Haneke’s films draw ontechniquesfor spectatorial manipulation familiar from both Hollywood cinema andcounter-cinema” 2 much like when our relief is quickly abolished when welearn that good guys don’t always win- a horror rule that Haneke ruthlesslybreaks- and the only thing that provides us with a sense of catharsis. We are tied into being abystander in a much subtler way in Michael Haneke’s Cache (2005) (translates asHidden). The film opens with another of Haneke’s much loved long takes. Theshot is static with no movement other than a small number of pedestrians, andvehicles crossing the screen. The scene is also relatively silent- with nothingbut a subtle hum. We are completely unaware that the shot is a video recordinguntil the scene is paused and rewound. As the shot is positioned in such a wayso we can only see the screen, and none of the surrounding monitor we are giventhe impression that it is in fact our own screen that has been paused andrewound.
This technique immediately drags us into the film, and makes us feel much more vulnerable in the scenes tocome. Cache (2005) is the story ofGeorges, a talk-show host and his wife Anne, an upper class French couple whobegin to receive anonymous video tapes of their home shot in a CCTVesque manner .These tapes have been shot overfairly long periods of time and it appears as though “nothing” happens in them,leaving us with an abundance of questions as nothing is made clear. The clipsescalate and Georges is soon guided towards an unknown apartment.
It is in thisapartment that we are confronted by Majid (Georges’ abandoned Algerian Brother)where the viewer and George learn what lead to his brother being forced into anorphanage. When we return the Majid’sapartment for the second time George is let in by Majid, and after a shockinglyminute amount of conversation, Majid pulls a blade from his pocket andcontinues to slice a gape into his own throat; collapsing to the ground infront of Georges. There are only 15 seconds from the moment Georges enters theroom, to Majid lying motionless on his kitchen floor- we are not made aware ofwhat is about to happen through any form of dramatic monologue, nor is there a lengthy and seeminglyrehearsed dispute. Once Haneke has shocked us with the death of Georges’brother, we are left lingering on the same shot used to show their entry intothe room for over a minute. American Philosopher Judith Butler spoke on theprocess of mourning- voicing “if there were to be an obituary, there would havebeen a life, a life worth noting, a life worth valuing and preserving, a lifethat qualifies for recognition.” this statement expresses that it makes nosense to say that the mention of a life being lost means it can be grieved.This theory suggests that only once a death has been dragged to attentionpublically can we begin to mourn. In cinema when a human-being is killed, theshot is often cutaway, to maintain a momentum in-which distracts us from the repercussionsof death, instead keeping us entertained- making the death of characterscompletely unmarked.
However, Michael Haneke keeps us very much cemented intothe room for over a minute after Majid’s death- we are made to watch andexperience Georges’ stages of realisation and mourning. From the confused joltwhen the blade is first sighted, to the body-halting shock Georges’ has not yetput together in his mind what has just happened. He begins to pace, in and outof shot- but we never leave Majid’s side. Not Haneke starving the viewer of anyform of anticipation shock us, but just as both the viewer and George’s thoughtthey had come to an end searching for the person sending the tapes, we are soondragged straight back to stage one. This is something that Michael Hanekestrives on; letting the viewer know that they should never assume- and shouldmost definitely never put their guard down. Michael Haneke makes theconscious decision to never reveal who is tormenting Georges as the it wouldcompletely distract the viewer from thinking about Georges and the guilt hefeels. If the viewer discovered that the person sending the tapes was in factMajid or even his son, we would then find ourselves piecing together whether ornot the two could show any justification for what they have put Georgesthrough- discussing whether they had overreacted or underreacted. In turn,Cache would morph into a film about two separate parties with much differentmoral views and experience- and their feud.
By creating insecurities in ourminds over who the culprit may be, the director manipulates us in a way muchsimilar to what we have seen before in Resnais’ 1963 Muriel- building on ourinsecurities and fear of the unknown and forcing us to connect occurrences thatwe have never actually bared witness to. When referring to Filmmaker Amat Escalante’s2013 film Heli (a portrayal of the dark side of life in Mexico), Critic MarkKermode noted that much like Michael Haneke’s 2005 Cache, Escalante has a verymatter-of-fact technique when it comes to depicting violence in his work.Kermode said “domesticity will become the film’s most disturbing element, ashome-grown torture is enacted in the presence of children, their attentiondivided between the flickering images on the TV screen and the real-lifebeating of a man in whose violation and humiliation they are invited/forced toparticipate”.
3 The thing that sparks fearinside us is not just witnessing violent acts, but in seeing such scenes unfoldin familiar and relatable settings within the home. Through-outMichael Haneke’s films, the variants of the names George and Anne are used bythe two main protagonists- as well as this Haneke (particularly in his earlierworks) chooses to repeatedly use the same actors. These techniques encourage usto see these characters as symbolic silhouette- instead of seeing them asprominent, distinctive characters. This makes it far easier for the viewer toslip into the role of participant, and influences us to react much more heavilyto what we are seeing on-screen, be it confusion, disgust or unease. Haneke’sapproach can be described as organised realism, taking a string of eventsopenly set-up to build a bridge between the staged film world, and our world-with all the social issues that it brings- forcing us into the role of culprit,and analyst. The way in which Haneke presents his world to us in a somewhatsurreal realism can be compared to that of American Independent film directorand writer Harmony Korine.
Korine first entered the spotlight when he wroteLarry Clark’s Kids (1995)- a piece following a group of teenagers over thecourse of 24 hours- with us seeing every inch of their culture- regardless ofhow sickening or disquieting. It was this that at the age of 21 left HarmonyKorine as one of if not the mostinsightful breakthrough authors of the 90s- attacking cinema with anever-seen-before take on realism- striving without the need of dramaticcomposition- basking in its unforgiving, harrowing glory. HarmonyKorine has only produced 5 feature length films in his active years of being afilmmaker- with the rest of his time being spent on producing video shorts. Thefirst of Korine’s feature length films to singe the public was his 1997 dim anddark outlook on Ohio’s town of Xenia- recently hit and partially grazed by atornado.
We enter the world of the townspeople in what feels like a veryvoyeuristic manner- and meet them through a number of questionably discomfortingbut aesthetically fascinating vignettes.