Dir: Michael Haneke
123 min., 35mm, 1:1.66, Color, WP
Produktion: WEGA-Filmproduktion Wien in Zusammenarbeit mit ORF, BR und Arte. Buch: Michael Haneke, nach dem Roman von Franz Kafka. Kamera: Jiri Stibr. Ausstattung: Christoph Kanter. Ton: Marc Parisotto. Produzent: Veit Heiduschka. Schnitt: Andreas Prochaska.
Darsteller: Ulrich Mühe (K.), Susanne Lothar (Frieda), Frank Giering (Artur), Felix Eitner (Jeremias), Dörte Lyssewski (Olga), Inga Busch (Amalia), Birgit Linauer (Pepi), Nikolaus Paryla (Vorsteher), Norbert Schwientek (Bürgel), Hans Diehl (Erlanger), Ortrud Beginnen (Brückenwirtin), Otto Grünmandl (Brückenwirt), Branko Samarowski (Herrenhofwirt), Johannes Silberschneider (Lehrer), André Eisermann (Barnabas), Paulus Manker (Momus), Monika Bleibtreu (Lehrerin) u.a.
Uraufführung: 23.2.1997, Internationales Forum des Jungen Films.
Weltvertrieb: WEGA-Filmproduktion GmbH, Hägelingasse 13, A-1140 Wien, Tel. (43-1) 9825742, Fax: (43-1) 9825833
Sat 15.02. 19:30 Akademie der Künste Sun 23.02. 11:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Sun 23.02. 16:30 Delphi Mon 24.02. 20:00 Arsenal
Increasingly, coldness has become an issue for me. Human beings fall silent, are unable to communicate. This was an issue for me from the beginning and it assumes an ever greater urgency now. (...)
The only utopia which we can take seriously is a negative one. It can exist only if we analyse, perhaps even exaggerate the present situation. If I verbalize the present, then the audience might gain insights which could result in a kind of hope, an utopia and a will to fight. Generally speaking, naive utopias in art are dead. If there is utopia, then only the utopia of terror and destruction which in turn might trigger forces of resistance. I don't know a single author or filmmaker today who would dare to offer utopias as a life support system.
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I can't force the audience into anything. It can take or leave my offer. I am not a social worker.
I am offering the viewer the possibility of identifying with the film's trajectory. The more hopeless and horrible a protagonist's life is and the more points of identification I offer, the more likely it is that viewers will mobilize their own strength. If the shock is great enough, it might initiate changes in their lives. The dramatic structure of Greek tragedy is based on the same effect: the shock of seeing a horrendous life triggers a cathartic effect.
Once Bresson was asked about his supposed pessimism and he responded: "You get pessimism mixed up with clarity." Little can be added to this statement. Since Mann's ,Dr. Faustus' we have known that in culture, the last bastion of utopia, the only option is personal withdrawal. What is left of culture in the scenario of destruction in the 20th century is little more than fear and despair. At the most, art will deal with different degrees and variations of falling silent. Except that so far this knowledge has not trickled down to filmmakers nor journalists.
I know there is a tendency today to hold in contempt anything to do with responsibility. I have to say that in some way I symphathize with this. We have been overfed with ideologies and it seems right to be sceptical about messages. And yet, I think we exaggerate. A work of art which projects a humanistic concern beyond formal/artistic perfection is suspicious from the outset, is treated condescendingly. Works of art which try to say something, or, to put it carefully, ask questions about the meaning of life, are treated with patronizing contempt by the younger generation shaped by American mass culture.
I wonder why people for whom art is only an end in itself bother with it at all. I am deeply convinced that art is a moral category and that art without aesthetics turns into bad didacticism. These things cannot be considered separately. But I do want to emphasize the difference between ,morality' and ,moralism' or rather ,sour faced morality'. If, as an artist, I am not really interested in human beings, in their lives, in the ,other', if I don't believe this to be a worthy endeavor, then I would have to ask why I am working at all. Since religion no longer functions as before, art is now the only space where human beings can transcend their existence, where the feeling of being lost, despair and longing can be transformed creatively, where positions can be clarified, where one can search and find. Our situation is much too complex for solutions offered by a naive 19th Century belief in enlightenment and progress. And yet my artistic drive must be derived from a desire to impart meaning.
Let me speculate a bit: an ordering system which is homogenous could also be a transcendental provocation. Art forges form out of chaos. An exact description of our situation in life is always more than outright nihilism. True nihilism is thinking of the viewer as stupid and unimportant, trying to get as much money as possible out of him, showering him with what he supposedly wants: entertainment.
Even though Chabrol's films don't convince me entirely, I do like their coldness. His films never betray the protagonists. He keeps them in suspense in the good old French tradition, like in Marivaux's plays, but he never makes fun of them. Another issue is the betrayal of protagonists. In some Austrian films, for example, there is a tone of condescension towards protagonists. Authors always seem to know what's what, their ,heroes' are unfortunately very stupid. It irritates me enormously, as a viewer I am made to feel stupid. If I can't take the protagonist seriously, why should I watch the film at all? By the way, it has nothing to do with ,identification'. I can remain quite detached if the narrative is interesting. I don't like films which tell me how to see the protagonists. I don't like this typically Austrian malice towards the protagonists nor this hypocritically compassionate kind of characterization, superior social-democratic sentimentalism.
Isn't it true that every good narrative contains an ending which transcends the story? Artistic quality is measured by this final transcendence. The viewer ought to be offered a way forward. What I like even better is to take the viewer really seriously and finish the story in such a way that propels him/her to act on it. If one simply ,supplies' the viewer, s/he is truly held in contempt. (...) One really should help the viewer to remember his/her own ability to judge, his/her longings and utopias.
(...) It is one of my basic principles to communicate indirectly. Artistic expression means, after all, that one always has an idea, an image in mind for each situation. Our films usually fall into the trap of German television drama, i.e. we ,dot the i's and cross the t's'. There is no mental space available, leaving the viewer's imagination to roam freely. Instead, everything is explained, always one more piece of information is given to make sure one understands... The result is that one doesn't understand anything because it is only admissible to feel what has been explained. Generally speaking, the impulse of television to explain everything has resulted in a levelling out of the aesthetic of dialogue. This is getting worse and worse. (...)
Television work can only be done ,against' institutions. Anything slightly unconventional is possible only after a protracted struggle. Literary adaptations might be the exception, because most of them seem politically harmless. There you can afford to go out on a limb aesthetically. (...)
Naturally, I asked myself why I haven't done previous work for the cinema. The problem is that financing a film isn't easy. In television you go and hand in your proposal. Then it's either ,yes' or ,no'. If it is ,yes', the money is available immediately and the amount is negotiable. In film a ,yes' means absolutely nothing. You still have to find the money for the film. (...)
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) wrote the novel ,The Castle' in 1924. It was first published in 1926. (...)
Just like the protagonist K., academic research, too, has tried to assess the significance of the castle. At first theological interpretation was dominant, especially as initiated by Max Brod. The castle was supposed to be an allegory of divine grace. (...) Robert Rochefort (1947) felt that "life in a vacuum" and "distance to God" were the "necessary preconditions for a new and deeper sense of religion". Kafka's "experiment of total negation" was a sign that human beings today consider God "as the absent one whose existence can be perceived in moments of despair and in the conviction that everything is absurd." Existential interpretations took over subsequently. Albert Camus understood the castle to signify the crisis of contemporary man, an isolated human being who sees the world only in terms of his own psychic drives and needs, who never sees the world on its own terms, therefore never finding anyone but himself. (...)
Kafka's epic poetry, his letters and his diary suggest that divine authority is replaced by worldly power: fatherly and political authority. Walter Benjamin already noted the "age-old father-son relationship" is a constant in Kafka's work: "There are a lot of indications that for Kafka the world of administrative officials and the world of fathers is identical." (...)
Kafka had realized the nature of the new society. He once said, "Capitalism is a system of dependencies which works from the outside to the inside, from top to bottom. Everything is connected and shackled. Capitalism reflects the state of the world and the soul." (...) The novel is about a system of dependencies which is reflected in its style and structure. No matter from which point of view one considers Kafka, his writing style will predetermine one's approach. (...) K.'s first walk to the castle is described with the following words: "So he walked straight ahead again, but it was a long way. The street, the main village road, didn't lead to the mountain with the castle. It only got close to it, then took a turn away, as if purposefully. Even if it didn't lead away from the castle, it didn't get close to it."
Michael Haneke was born March 23rd, 1942, in Munich. He is the son of the Austrian actress Beatrix von Degenschild and the Düsseldorf director/actor Fritz Haneke. He spent his childhood and youth in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. After giving up the idea of attending the Max-Reinhard Seminar to become an actor as well as an ambition to become a concert pianist, he studied psychology and philosophy at Vienna university. He tried his luck as an author (‘Persepone, a Tale') and worked as a film and literary critic. From 1967 to 1971 he worked as editor and television feature dramaturgue at the Südwestfunk in Baden-Baden. At the municipal theatre in Baden-Baden he first directed a play in the seventies, ,Des journées entières dans les arbres' / ,Whole Days in the Trees with Marguerite Duras'. He directed other plays in Darmstadt, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Vienna by Strindberg, Goethe, Hebbel, Enquist, Bruckner, Kleist and others.
1974: Und was kommt danach? (After Liverpool) (Buch und Regie, nach einem Hörspiel von James Saunders; TV-Film). 1975: Sperrmüll (Regie; TV-Film). 1976: Drei Wege zum See (Buch und Regie, nach der Erzählung von Ingeborg Bachmann; TV-Film). 1979: Lemminge (Idee, Buch, Regie; TV-Film). 1982: Variation (Idee, Buch, Regie; TV-Film). 1984: Wer war Edgar Allan? (Buch mit Hans Broseynei nach dem gleichnamigen Roman von Peter Rosei; TV-Film). 1985: Fräulein (Buch nach einer Idee von Bernd Schroeder, Regie; TV-Film). 1989: Der siebente Kontinent. 1991: Nachruf für einen Mörder (Buch, Regie; TV-Film). 1992: Die Rebellion (TV-Film); Benny's Video. 1994: 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls. 1995: Lumière et compagnie. 1997: DAS SCHLOSS.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.