I’m currently working on a manuscript about powerfully transporting films, and the chapter currently on the table is about films that explore loneliness, alienation, and division in contemporary society.

Thus, I’ve been thinking about a lot of films, from Taxi Driver to Barton Fink to Punch-drunk Love to Last Life in the Universe. The director I can’t escape is Michael Haneke, especially Code Unknown.

But it didn’t hit me until today that the events we’re seeing unfold in what’s left of New Orleans are strikingly similar… dismayingly so… to the events in Haneke’s Time of the Wolf.

Because the disaster that sets the film in motion is left undefined, the subsequent events onscreen could be applicable to any number of tragedies. All we know is that something… nuclear holocaust? Hurricane? Civil war? … has turned a seemingly secure and civilized society upside-down. Isabelle Huppert plays a woman trying to keep her family together during the chaos that ensues. The similarities between the current chaos and what happens in this film are uncanny…

…the desperation for water…
…the problems of transporting the old and the sick and the weak…
…racial conflict…
…vigilantes and criminals running rampant…
…the absence of federal help until, for many, it’s too late…
…the waiting for rescue, for compassion, for supplies, for anything
…the desperate attempts of parents to keep a family safe and together in spite of the encroaching dangers of hunger, disease, dehydration…
… the threat of murder and rape in the night…

Part of me wants to revisit the film right now, because I’m curious to see what else relates. And also because, while the conclusion is wide open to varying interpretations, you can find hope there. But my emotions, battered as they are right now, couldn’t take the weight of the experience. Not yet.

I appreciate Haneke more and more, though, and in the future, this film will be an even richer provocation to conversation and contemplation. I am thrilled to see he has a new film coming that stars the great Daniel Auteuil and the sublime Juliette Binoche. Cache is about a married couple who are torn to pieces by the experience of having videos delivered to their doorstep that reveal they are being watched by someone somewhere and documented. Ahh… just in time for Christmas!

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