TIME OF THE WOLF
(Le Temps du Loups)
Time of the Wolf is one of Hanekes less highly regarded films or perhaps one should say is still analysed among his other films but never gained a high profile as his other works. Hanekes films often having a biting sting or are constructed like vicious conceptual traps around their central characters. By contrast, Time of the Wolf feels more like a French arthouse film elliptical, more concerned with the building of long scenes and character meditations than drama and the progression of plot.
Haneke is never particularly clear about what is happening throughout. We appear to be in some near future where society is collapsing at the edges why, we are never told. In the countryside, where the whole of the film takes place, supplies are scarce, people are nearing starvation and trains no longer appear to be stopping. Anything more than that is a mystery. The bulk of the early sections of the film come in wide angles or long shots. There are some beautifully composed landscapes the countryside covered in mist and a strangely surreal sense passing through the town square filled with a bonfire of what look like horse carcasses. The very slowness of the shots remind you of Andrei Tarkovsky maybe you could think of Time of the Wolf as a version of The Road (2009) as directed by Tarkovsky.
The action perks up somewhat when Isabelle Huppert and children arrive at the train station. For a time, it feels like we are in a meandering quasi-apocalyptic version of Samuel Beckett as they wait for a train that never comes amid petty squabbles over social cohesion and the rules. This is interrupted with the arrival of a group of other people who overtake the station and disrupt the status quo. There are some intriguing mini-dramas here a group determined to persecute a Pole for a perceived crime and especially when the man who killed Isabelle Hupperts husband and his wife turns up looking for shelter and she protests about his being there and he denies it but Haneke seems disinterested in any traditional playing off of the dramatics of these.
The last shot is the enigmatic one from the window of a train as it crosses the countryside. Quite what it means is unclear. Certainly, it offers no resolution to the scenario that we have just had. Others have sought deep meaning in all of this vague elliptical drama; I am afraid I am not one of them. I find Michael Haneke a fascinating director but Time of the Wolf with its frustrated lack of anything happening is surely his least interesting film.
Trailer here (no English subs):-