Der siebente Kontinent (1989) Poster

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Burns its way into your psyche
Howard Schumann25 August 2003
Arguably, no greater cinematic interpreter of alienation exists in the world today than Austrian director Michael Haneke. Haneke shows us characters whose response to the world around them has deadened, people who have forgotten how to feel, how to love, how to care. The Seventh Continent, the first film of the trilogy that, with Benny's Video (1992) and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994), depicts what Haneke has called "my country's emotional glaciation." Based on a true story of the disintegration of a middle class Austrian family, the film has little plot, only incident and observation. Divided into three parts and shot in episodic fragments, as in his 2002 film Code Unknown, each fragment is tenuously connected by fadeouts in which scenes start and end abruptly. A mood of banality is established early in an extended sequence in which a car moves through a car wash showing all the details of detergent sprays, high-pressure washers, and rotating brushes. At the end of the car wash is a travel poster beckoning tourists to visit Australia with a peaceful scene of sand and water, a motif that is repeated periodically during the film.

The Schobers, husband George (Dieter Berner), wife Anna (Birgit Doll), and daughter Eva (Leni Tanzer), are the happily married family living next door. George is an engineer and Anna an optician. Eva is a bright child of about eight with deep, expressive eyes. The family moves through their morning ritual with precision -- brushing their teeth, feeding the fish, and eating breakfast with little conversation or emotional interaction. The camera avoids their faces, focusing on mundane objects such as a bowl of cereal, an alarm clock, a fish tank, a package of congealed broccoli. This preoccupation with objects underscores the lack of connection between the characters and the things they have acquired. We get our first hint that something is not right when Eva pretends to her teacher that she has lost her eyesight. Anna questions her about the incident, promising not to harm her if she tells the truth but, when Eva admits to the lie, suddenly slaps her across the face ignoring the fact that she is a very troubled little girl. It is from here that the cracks begin to widen.

Depicting ritualistic actions like counting of money at a supermarket, the distractions of television, the meaninglessness of work, the film reflects the powerlessness and isolation of people in modern society. Haneke chronicles a family enslaved to the structures they have created, operating in a morass of emotional vacuity. The first hour may seem slow but it builds considerable tension until it reaches a shattering climax. Little by little the family disengages. George quits his job and writes letters to his parents hinting of something dark about to happen. In the absence of a spiritual core, without the possibility of meaningful action, the family sinks deeper into an abyss, unraveling and discarding the tightly woven structures of their life. Similar in theme to Todd Haynes' 1995 film Safe but with three times the power, The Seventh Continent is a ruthlessly intelligent film that burns its way into your psyche, leaving an indelible mark that will forever haunt your dreams.
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Another brick in the inhumanity
przgzr31 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Disturbing and shocking?

No. If movies like "Freaks" and "Ecstasy" long ago, and "Color of Night", "Basic Instinct", "Pretty Baby", even "My Life As A Dog", "A Wicker Man" or "Crazy" sometimes get described as disturbing or shocking, this one is far, far beyond. I just don't know the word strong enough.

This is most depressive movie ever made, I'm sure, not because I saw all of them, but I just can't imagine anything being more depressive. It should be strongly forbidden for suicidal persons, cause an army of psychiatrists couldn't prevent taking their lives.

It can't be compared to Greek tragedies, because Greeks had God's will or human wickedness that make tragic events happen. In "Seventh Continent" the tragedy comes from inside. The characters aren't really dying. They weren't alive at all. They had no more life inside than a dishwasher or coffee machine. They just do what they are supposed to, and repeat it day after day. Androids in "Blade Runner" are far more human, even the robot in "Lost in Space" serial is. They have no trouble to commit suicide because, being a machine, they have no survival instinct.

Pasolini's "Salo" is a disturbing movie, but not close to Sade's book that inspired it. Pasolini was interested in politics and homosexuality and omitted most of other contents. Even so, "Salo" is full of violence, torturing, sexuality, sadism. Though far from what we consider normal and acceptable, it still has feelings and passion. There is no violence, sexuality or passion in "Seventh Continent", because a machine can't have or show them. Even killing the pets isn't a violent act, it is equal to combing hair or closing the door. No feelings. Something that has to be done.

Haneke has made more movies and characters like these. Benny in "Benny's Video" has also no feelings (something between autistic and psychopath), but he still explores. Even murder, though heartless, cruel and pointless, is a part of exploring life and it's possibilities, and still leaves a possibility for a life (a kind of hope for Benny and human civilization itself). Characters in "Seventh Continent" went further: they came to the end of exploring and they found nothing. They are not alive and human any more even to be evil. They realized how pointless is their existence. They (adults) have more experience than Benny and they found that they have nothing more to look for or to expect. And with machine perfection they terminate they existence. Not violently, immediately as humans would do - by weapons, bomb that would destroy every trace of their lives. They are not human enough even to die as humans. Compare it to your computer: you click turning off, all the running programs will be terminated, then Windows save its settings and slowly fade away. And at the end there is nothing left. Only what has been left on hard disc. Complete perfection of inhumanity. Only traces will exist in administrations - school, police, job, insurance... Nothing related to humans.

Watch this movie if you have a chance. But be sure to have an infusion of Prozac on stand-by.
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a controlled freak-out
kentos13 August 2002
Having spent a couple years now browsing thru IMDb, this is the first film I've seen that actually motivated me to leave a comment. I've seen 3 other (more recent) movies by Haneke: "Funny Games," "Code Unknown," and "The Piano Teacher." All of them disturbed me in their own special way--a feeling that I obviously don't mind getting from a film. "The 7th Continent," though, really blew me away in ways that I find difficult but necessary to describe.

This was Haneke's first theatrical film & apparently based on a true story--although I'm always skeptical of such disclaimers (the same was said about "Picnic at Hanging Rock," another great creepy film). It's divided into 3 parts: 1987, 1988, and 1989. Many scenes repeat themselves, and we get a clear sense that the family (dad, mom, daughter) is going through the motions of modern life. The banalities have a bizarre and uneasy edge to them, though, that really piles up by the time Part 3 arrives. All I have to say about the last 40 minutes is: OH MY GOD! I thought Gaspar Noe's "I Can't Sleep" (?) had an excruciating buildup, but that one (with all its explicitness) can't hold a candle to the amount of emotional and physical devastation packed into the conclusion of "Continent."

Fans of Haneke's later work should definitely check this one out to see the origin of his trademarks: no music score, seemingly pointless scenes that linger (often with little or no dialogue), off-putting camera angles (we sometimes see only the actors' hands or feet). While these techniques aren't always successful in his films ("Code" had some interminable moments), they all come together seamlessly in "Continent." A superb work!
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A bleak and clinical examination of a family in despair
Graham Greene19 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The seventh continent at the centre of this bleak tale of suburban dysfunction is as vague and enigmatic as the film itself. Are we supposed to believe that the geographical state noted in the title is the rugged, ethereal landscape glimpsed fleetingly throughout key moments of the film, or is it in fact a much higher state of being that can only truly be achieved by purging yourself of the trappings of twentieth century life? The need for transcendence is central throughout The Seventh Continent (1989), the first feature film from Austrian provocateur Michael Haneke, who has subsequently gone on to re-examine this very same theme in his following films - 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994), The Piano Teacher (2001) and Hidden (2005) - by continually probing the very boundaries of human nature and the personal and/or social factors that can drive an individual to the point of complete, psychological transcendence. If you are at all familiar with Haneke's work you will be partially aware of what to expect from the film in question, with The Seventh Continent presenting us with a deep, hypnotic and highly clinical examination of the break-down in communication between members of a middle-class Austrian family, and the desire they have to transcend the drab, soulless grind of their everyday existence and arrive at that mythical place so central to the title.

Even here, with his first film for cinema, Haneke's iconic style and attention to detail is fully-formed, with the same stylistic flourishes found in his recent film, the highly acclaimed Hidden, already presented in the stark, antiseptic presentation of the world created here. The direction of the film is intended to present to us the emptiness and tedium central to the lives of its characters, by giving us scenes that play out in long, unbroken takes lasting anywhere between five to ten minutes, with the camera often locked off and immobile in order to further emphasise the idea of clinical examination. In this respect, the film is less about telling a story and presenting emotions in a manner that we might expect from cinema, but instead feeling more like a science experiment, with Haneke as the biology professor inviting us to take a look through the lens of the microscope. In keeping with this idea, the way in which the drama unfolds and is presented is again drawing heavily on the director's desire to create a mood for the audience that in some way mirrors that of the characters depicted on screen. So, the slow pace, deliberately minimal use of editing and the constant repetition of scenes, actions and events all help to create that same sense of tedium and lifeless banality in order to create a reaction or even a sense of empathy from those of us watching this very ordinary family spiral so terribly out of control.

These themes are further reinforced with the film's near iconic opening shot; a locked off, low-angle perspective of a family saloon moving slowly through a service station car wash. The shot, presented in real-time, lasts somewhere between five or six minutes, but on our first exposure to the film, feels much, much longer. Although it will undoubtedly infuriate some, it establishes the style and pace of the film perfectly; whilst also creating something of an atmosphere of empty, soulless routine. Why wash the car when it will only get dirty again? Later in the film the shot will be repeated within context to further illustrate this point. From here we cut to a montage of cold, clinically arranged images of domestic cleansing; toilets, shower-heads, sinks, plug-holes, toothbrushes, etc. It's almost ten minutes before we even see a character's face or find any kind of meaningful exchange of dialog, with Haneke instead presenting the ideas of routine, conformity, cleansing and facade. The notion of cleansing, both literally in this instance, and spiritually as the film progresses, is an important theme, with the family effectively cleansing themselves from society; stripping away every layer of the superficial and eventually taking the final leap of faith into the unknown.

Even here, as the family take their house apart piece by piece and destroy their belongings in order to free themselves from the shackles of routine and social responsibility, we have the action presented as a series of hypnotic, gruelling and repetitive montages that stress the weight of effort required to even escape the horrors of the mundane. Admittedly, I could be reading this the wrong way, but to me the implication is clear; that the family - for one reason or another - have simply ceased to exist. Even before the film begins they have been consumed by life and are now numbed to its pleasures, no matter how few and far between. As a result, many will find these characters hard to like and even harder to empathise with, particularly in the selfishness regarding their child. In one of the most moving scenes, Haneke drops his guard, and for the first time allows his polemic to be overtaken by emotion; as the family sit motionless on the couch, the television set flickering in the dark, with Jennifer Rush singing her anthemic hit The Power of Love as their house lies in ruins, the little girl drinks her milk and softly proclaims "its bitter!". The Seventh Continent is not as easy film to watch; nor to appreciate on any immediate, emotional level. Like much of Haneke's work it requires an enormous amount of thought and effort on the part of the audience to really think about and deconstruct what it is that he is attempting to convey, and only then are we able to truly understand and appreciate what the film is really about.
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8/10
Emotionally shattering real-life horror
gray416 March 2004
A powerful, disturbing film, shot in a highly idiosyncratic style. Michael Haneke's dissection of Austrian alienation is astonishingly effective. The style is, for the first part of the film, full of such close-ups that we don't see the characters' faces for nearly half an hour, but we share with them their view of the breakfast cereals, shoes and shopping. It should be boring, but is instead gripping, a quiet build-up to the prosaic horrors to come.

It is hard to comment without revealing some of these horrors, but the overall effect is shattering, tolerable only because Haneke avoids any real involvement with the characters and their motivations. With hindsight this is a weakness, and I reached the end of the film with the feeling 'what was that all about?'. But it is a film to reflect on, unlike any other that I have seen. Don't miss it - unless you are feeling depressed!
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10/10
Art at its best
Vitor Cunha6 March 2004
Der Siebent Kontinent is a film you should watch. It is not pleasant neither does Michael Haneke uses any tricks in order to even interest you about the characters or their lives. Yet, it is as powerful as an atomic bomb during peace time. It is LOUD and its message (which is whatever you want it to be) is right in your face.

It is amazing how a masterpiece needs no soundtrack, fancy camera work or explicit and extended dialogs.

Unfortunately, it is very hard to find. The screenings are rare and no personal editions on VHS or DVD exist as far as I am aware. Many will recognize the "Piano Teacher" approach to directing but, this is as powerful as it can get. One of the finest examples of style not overlapping form.

Treat yourself with this lesson. Watch it if you can. Specially if you experienced depression at a given time in your life.
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6/10
Not enjoyable, yet manages to affect the viewer.
Alocirp25 October 2007
I went into this film with very high expectations. Unfortunately, I can't say that it lived up to them. The first hour is incredibly dull, as we watch an upper middle-class family lifelessly perform mundane tasks (take a shower, eat breakfast, tie shoes, etc.). I failed to sympathize with any of the characters, and some scenes dragged on so long that I found my mind wandering. I generally don't mind long takes, and even in other films by the same director (Funny Games, Benny's Video, etc.) thought they were used extremely well. However, here they were simply tedious.

The film wasn't totally a let down however; far from it. The last 45 minutes really picks up intensity and re-grabs the viewer's interest. I won't spoil anything for those who haven't seen it, but the scene in which the family destroys their own house and possessions is extremely well done. The ending is bleak and depressingly powerful, and I realized that it wouldn't have worked without the boring first hour. But that doesn't change the fact that it was boring.

Overall, I had trouble giving this film a number rating, but I guess it would be somewhere around a 6/10. I think it's possible that that number would change on a second viewing, but to be honest, I doubt I would ever want to watch this film again.
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8/10
Whatever
K night10 October 2009
I think that many people will be able to identify with this film. As always, I made a point of knowing virtually nothing about it before I saw it, and I'd recommend doing the same. If you know about the plot beforehand, the impact will be markedly ruined. The first thought that came to mind after the first few sequences was "they haven't shown anyone's face yet".. I guess that's the point. If you are reading this, then you most likely are not starving, and are amongst the rich 1 billion of the world. So the actions portrayed initially in this middle class existence needn't any face, as they pertain to all of us, we the regurgitators of human aspirations (weird phrasing). We don't have a face, as there is nothing to tell us apart from the next person. Anyway, it's absurd to think that the mental process that took over the family is considered an exception, but the fact that it is only highlights how sick our society is, refusing to remodel this cataclysmic and decerebrate way of being. I was affected by the subsequent events that transpired, and one particular scene still haunts me in a vicious way, although it cannot be mentioned here... suffice to say it broke free from a certain degree of apathy shown by the main characters throughout, revealing the desperate and twisted cry of raw emotion that can exude from even the most planned chaos. Watch it all the way through, it is meant to bore you for a while, it wouldn't be the same if it didn't.
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An incredibly scary film
tonymurphylee10 April 2010
A family, starved for attention and desperate to escape their daily life of abrasive routine, decide to turn things around one year and go against the routine. The film depicts their lives in three painful years of isolation, meaningless actions, and disillusionment. The first two-thirds of the film show the loud and hectic world that they are inexplicably a part of. Everything is just a series of actions. The semi-apocalyptic sequence shows a kind of desperate forcefulness of life that never breaks though, and the claustrophobic nature comes across as frighteningly unnerving. Tarkovsky would be proud.

The Seventh Continent was the second Michael Haneke film I had seen after The Piano Teacher. While I do not think that it is as honest a film as The Piano Teacher, I do applaud the fearless dynamic of the film to be completely devoid of style and of typical film conventions in order to depict a world that grows increasingly unpredictable and harrowing. The film is very Hitchcock-like in how it slowly and quietly builds it's themes involving desolate emotions. It is a tremendously scary film, but it is scary in a way that comes off a lot stronger after the film has finished and you allow it's images to swim around in your head for a while. The loss of passion and of feeling in a human being, to my knowledge, has never been depicted in such a pessimistic way.

This is a very angry film. This is a very resentful film. This is a film that celebrates sadness and anger and I hated watching it. When the film finds time to depict humanity, it writes it off like it is useless. What makes me even more angry about the film, in a way, is how you can almost feel Haneke behind the camera feeling resentful and wanting to punish the audience for wanting to view a film with a good story and a moving and engaging plot. Haneke goes so far out of his way to provide nothing in the way of narrative power and instead opts to craft an angry and traumatizing film. What makes the film work is it's power to provide some deeply haunting imagery and some truly worthwhile substance that I couldn't help but appreciate. Two of these three characters have complete control over everything that happens and they obviously feel that what they do in the final act of the film is most beneficial. Who am I to judge their own control over their lives. What pisses me off is how simple minded they are as characters. I just feel that Haneke prefers to emphasize these problems that these characters share, and what I am bothered by was that he didn't make it less obvious.

Overall, it's not one of Haneke's best films, but for a debut theatrical picture it is about as good as one can get. What strikes me as rather unusual about this film, when compared to his other films, is how it suffers from the same major problems that pretty much all of his films have. For example, he has never been able to build any sympathy with any of his characters, at least from the films of his that I've seen, and this film is no different in that regard. The film of his that I personally think suffers the most from it is Funny Games (both versions). With his picture Cache, it only became a problem early on in the film, and in Benny's Video and Hour of the Wolf it helped add to the atmosphere while damaging the humanity of the films in question. I think that The Seventh Continent shows plenty of promise with Haneke and is extremely riveting at times, but it's easily the absolute worst place to start if you are interested in getting into his films. It will not leave you with a good impression of his work, and only after watching Funny Games and Cache (his most easily accessible films in my opinion) will you be able to catch his reoccurring themes.
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1/10
Realistic family study regarding modern living or pretentious film making?
digital_groove10 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I sadly to say go with the latter. I only recently became interested in Haneke's work after viewing Funny Games, being completely hypnotized and blown away by the magnificent work. "Cache" was enjoyable to me but I was hoping for more, I've seen plenty of European cinema, hundreds, but the ending was just too disappointing.

I made it an effort to see every Haneke film on DVD possible, starting in chronological order I watched this film and was just utterly taken aback by it instantly. I think to really comment on cinema one needs to be objective and know history of films similar to this type of intense plodding character (in this case family) study. To put it simply if it wasn't for being able to fast forward with subtitles still on I would have stopped this film within 30 minutes. The die-hard film lover in me pressed on expecting something important from this.

Let it be said, I never heard the hype surrounding this film nor did I view this IMDb page until AFTER I saw it. Complete 100% unbiased opinion and I thought it was trash. I fully understand someone can argue the idea it was so plodding and boring is because it's a film detailing how monotonous a life in the 21st century can get. To me, he easily could have shortened the film down, hell this could have been a short film reeling no more than 30 minutes and get the point across. After scene after scene it becomes obvious to the viewer the style he is going for, eventually turning predictable. You get where he's going with the film and just want the pay off already. It comes and in my case I was left wondering what a waste of time.

Film in the past has done a better and more remarkable job getting across the point of alienation humans can feel in modern society. Better pacing, establishing reason and emotions for characters, not over-indulging in film techniques. Instead this film displayed trite and mind-numbingly boring imagery. One of the worst art house films I've ever seen. A shame real fish had to die or suffer for this film. Haneke is clearly an auteur and I can only hope his films get better with each successor.
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2/10
Not a very good film-spoiler alert?
kiljoy786 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I put a question mark after spoiler alert because the fact that they off themselves in the end wasn't particularly shocking. I am quite shocked with the positive reviews this film received. I did not find it particularly disturbing or all that depressing, what I mostly found it was boring. There was no real character development, nor narrative development. I think their suicide speaks to inner torment of people who are equally sad and bored in their life, sadly I'm relatively happy, so I means little to me. The acting performances did not solicit any emotion from me, which I don't think is the fault of the actors, but I think it is what the director asked for in the piece. It was very absurd, but there is humor at the heart of absurdity, not torment. Why,simply because absurdity lacks the ability to solicit emotions from others in a vacuum of characters. when someone crushes a milk carton you don't grieve the milk carton unless you can anthropomorphize (msp) it in some way and these characters weren't; they were empty. There was no conflict. the sole redeeming quality I enjoyed about the film is the way it removed the veneer of eroticism and beauty from violence, and made it trite, which it is. This movie, however, stands far below Cache and Code Unknown in the haneke repertoire.
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9/10
Der Siebente Kontinent: Both Fascinating and Disturbing
Baron Ronan Doyle24 January 2010
Der Siebente Kontinent, the first film from the now famed and respected writer/director Michael Haneke, exploring the implications of the mundanity of upper-middle class life, is both fascinating and disturbing.

The film is the story of Georg, Anna and Eva, a small family living in an upper middle class world. Georg is working his way up in the professional world, Anna co-owns an opticians with her emotionally volatile brother, and Eva is a somewhat troublesome schoolgirl.

As the film begins, we are given an insight into the life of this family, the perfunctory drollness with which they carry out the banal tasks of everyday life mingling with the silence and lack of communication between them to create a portrait of a life not lived. Haneke focuses the camera on the table during breakfast, giving us no view of faces, suggesting that the material things in life like food are more important to this family than each other. The emphasis placed on their cursory interactions forms the basis of Haneke's message, showing us the austerity of these people. The image of Australia is used to represent the titular "seventh continent", the family's desire to reach this idyllic world the driving force of the film. The film relies heavily on silence and long unmoving shots, much of its running time focused on static scenes of the family at breakfast, watching television, and performing other routine tasks. This forms the basis for what we are about to see, the unfolding plot both shocking and thought-provoking.

Simplistic in its approach, Der Siebente Kontinent effectively displays the flaws of a materialistic and money driven world, and the consequences these flaws have upon the lives of ordinary people. Owing much to the camera angles and editing, it is an interesting and engaging look at the modern world and its impact on its inhabitants. A powerful debut film, it lays the foundations for the acclaim and success Haneke now enjoys.
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7/10
Grading Haneke
Bill-27631 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It's very tough assigning grades or "stars" to the films of Michael Haneke. He tends to trap his audiences within the context of the films themselves, which makes any judgment of the film a reflection of the viewer on his or herself. This is very difficult to do as a director, and very uncomfortable for Haneke's audiences--and Haneke wouldn't have it any other way.

That said, this is my 4th Haneke film, and I was impressed to see the vision, style and moral perspective Haneke HAMMERS his audiences with as vividly present in "The Seventh Continent", as all of the films I've seen Haneke has released since. However, once again, as fascinated as I am personally by Haneke's style and efficiency, "The Seventh Continent" is another Haneke film that is difficult to recommend to what I would consider a normal functioning adult.

I don't doubt that the story told in "The Seventh Continent" could happen. I don't doubt that it did happen very similarly to the way it was presented. What I take issue with is that it comes off as a stinging rebuke of the monotony of modern middle-class life (television's influence, etc...), when more likely, what happened to the family the story is based on was probably caused by something more tangible and less speculative. But even if that wasn't the case with the family the story is based on, the presentation of the fictional family in this particular film is intended to assign blame. And the daily mundane and boring rituals of a typical modern family (even monogamous marital sex) are clearly guilty in this film. And I don't think I personally agree with Haneke's assessment on this issue. (But that's between me and Mr. Haneke ;) )

My recommendation for now is to avoid Haneke's early work in general (maybe up to "The Piano Teacher"). It's not that there isn't much social value in Haneke's early films, it's that Haneke tends to focus on the EXTREME fringes of the human condition in his early work where insanity, mental instability, sociopaths and psychopaths are always going to linger. No amount of cultural change or faults addressing modern suburban middle class existence (or upper class apathy and ennui) is going to change that fact.

The ending and central themes of the film did remind me in a lot of ways (and it's been mentioned here as well) of Todd Hayne's brilliantly dark existential drama "Safe" (Julianne Moore, 1995). And though "The Seventh Continent" came out before "Safe", I would highly recommend "Safe" over "The Seventh Continent". As for Haneke, I would recommend "The Piano Teacher" or "The White Ribbon" as the more evolved director starts to catch his stride. Because Michael Haneke has SOME stride!
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Far from recommended viewing -- especially for those suffering from depression.
Henrik Nameless25 August 2002
Perhaps the most painful and miserable film in the history of cinema, Michael Haneke's 'The Seventh Continent' is like a full-blown punch to the stomach. Like watching someone bleed to death, this nihilistic debut feature from one of European cinema's most singular visionaries is slow, painful to look at, and far, far from enjoyable. Beginning with a credit sequence that shows a family vehicle moving through a car wash, in real-time -- taking about ten-minutes in total for the car to be hosed down, waxed and buffed, before they pull out of the garage and drive away -- is a sequence as infuriating as it is hypnotic, and expertly sets up the idea of cleansing that will be central throughout, with Haneke returning to the car-wash motif many-times during the early stages of the film.

The oppressive mood and subject matter is unsurprising when you consider Haneke's involvement. Never a director to shy away from more down-beat aspects of life, his films have dealt with everything from torture, to screen-violence and more recently incest, making him the least likely filmmaker to be heading up the call-back list for 'Charlie's Angels 2' (although he might have a chance with the next 'Scary Movie' sequel). With 'The Seventh Continent' he chronicles the downward spiral of a seemingly normal middle-class family with intricate, almost surgical precision. He shoots the film entirely in locked-off close-up, meaning a full twenty-minutes go by before we see anything remotely resembling a human face -- this is because Haneke is more interested in the actions of the family rather than who they are, the message simply being that this could be any family in any country on any street -- even yours.

The use of repetition works well, but after the first hour it does becomes obvious. We see the family get up, brush their teeth, wash, have breakfast, get in the car, go to work/school, come home, have dinner, go to bed -- and then the whole thing starts over again, always returning to the same set-up or shot. However for all the cleverness and thought that has clearly gone in to making the film resonate to such a degree I doubt Haneke's message is going to reach that many people. The film is far too overwhelming, and I'd imagine most viewers' will be reaching for the video remote or looking for the exit after the first hour or so. Acting is sub-par for most, mainly because much like Haneke's 'Funny Games' he doesn't really respect his players, merely uses them to promote his message. However the detached mental state depicted in the final build-up, in which moments of loud confusion are transformed into a crippling silence, are completely effective.

Style aside though, and under close scrutiny 'The Seventh Content' begins to fall apart. Save for a couple of clever stabs at visual symbolism -- tropical fish lie on the damp ground after their tank is smashed, slowly dying as they flutter about the floor in a painful attempt to grasp the last few moments of life -- the film never has the answers to its questions or the much needed depth to the characters plight -- are we just supposed to accept that they have naturally come to this conclusion in their life? This is all purposeful on Haneke's part, and it's hard to properly explain these flaws without giving too much away -- which, with a film like this would be wrong and detract from the bizarre surprises that build as the film approaches its climax. In short, 'The Seventh Continent' is an interesting but extremely flawed feature, not the masterpiece other would have you believe and definitely not recommended to those already suffering from depression.
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6/10
Existential
Polaris_DiB19 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Haneke's first film I can only describe this way: existential as as all hell.

Consisting of individual palette's of moments in a family's life, it is the story about disenfranchised and disaffected people who make the ultimate decision: not just to kill themselves, nay, but to completely destroy their identity.

I personally can't help but laugh at myself, because of all things that happens in this movie the part that disturbs me the most is the tearing up of the little girl's artwork. Everything else seems to be okay, even the death of the fish, but it's the artwork that affected me. I think that's because of all the things this movie showed them destroying, the artwork was the only thing they created, and in a sense it's the true identity of any of the characters. Everything else, the money, the wealth, the tools, the house, even themselves, seems in some way superficial, but the fact that they went to the lengths of removing pictures, photos, and paintings actually gets to me. Isn't that weird? Anyway, this movie is pretty interesting. I really like the compositions, especially how the faces of the characters aren't shown as much as usual. This movie really expresses the feeling that these people are defined by their possessions and actions, not by their faces or personality. It's really not that difficult to feel for and understand them.

Unfortunately, the movie ruins much of its message with those scrolling intertitles at the end. Honestly, that information almost undermines the whole concept of the movie.

--PolarisDiB
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1/10
Astoundingly Bad Cinema
ColinDavidBemis12 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I, quite unfortunately, viewed this film in a film class I am currently enrolled in at Hunter College. As a preface to this film, as well as other Michael Haneke films, my professor declared Haneke as one of her favorite filmmakers, and discussed several film-making techniques (such as the use of the long take, as well as other realistic elements that were supposed to serve the story better) that Haneke offered in his films. I, being a fan of such techniques (and having used some of them in my own films), was slightly excited. However, I then saw this film.

This movie was horrendous. The beginning of the film, taking place in a car wash, was interesting. It grabbed my attention. Instantly, my mind started reeling: what was this? Was this related to what I was about to see? Was this the culmination of the rest of the story? Was I seeing the ending first? And, possibly most importantly, was I seeing a symbolic reference to what this movie stood for?

At the end of the film, I felt something deep inside me. However, instead of it being that truly remarkable and unmistakable feeling of seeing something that genuinely affected you as a person, filmmaker, artist or moviegoer, it was the kind of feeling that triggered the violent, savage part of me that desired to do little else than find Michael Haneke and tear his insides out with a pitchfork. This film lacked, in all sense of the word, coherency, from the first scene to the last.

I understand the concept of "realism," as well as the widely influential style of film-making inspired and, in some ways, birthed by the French new wave. However, this film was attempting to do something that it failed in every respect in doing: it did not seem realistic, the acting was overdone and completely implausible, it offered little to no explanation as to half of the film's plot (a.k.a. why was the girl so distraught, and why was the husband so mentally disassociated?), the directing was far from impressive, the story was boring (and I rarely use the word "boring," but it frankly was), the last thirty minutes or so were beyond ridiculous (with little explanation offered), and the final shot of the film was, to admittedly sound sophomoric (I guess mimicking the film), horrendous.

Skip this film, or burn the negative, and go watch a film by Lars von Trier, Gus van Sant, or Inarritu. Good luck.
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8/10
Haunting tale not to be missed..
smakawhat12 May 2000
This underapreciated and much unheard film deals with the life of a typical family that takes a dramatic turn in their history.

Scenes cut to black. There is little dialogue. But the scenes create an intense paranoia and huge sense of aprehension as you sit back wondering what is going to happen. Awesome directing technique in creating two different worlds. One that is everyday and normal, the other frightningly disturbing.

A hand reaches for a hammer, and chooses a different one. A man in a junk yard drives his car towards his daughter. The sound of a mother gasping for air. A fish tank is destroyed. All these scenes which are so simple (even some of them not seen) and so BRILLIANT that they convey a sense of a anxiety and horror even though there are actions of ordinary people.

I just saw this at a special screening of Austrian director Michael Haneke's work. They are showing a trilogy of his best work and I can't wait to see "Benny's video" and "71 Fragments of a chronology of Chance".

If you ever do hear of this film (THe seventh continent) DON'T MISS IT you will NEVER see another film like it.

Rating 8 out of 10.
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8/10
Great debut about a shocking exit
Field786 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Haneke is the man for movies that document humanity and human relations (but mostly lack thereof) with disturbing precision, and make the viewers increasingly uncomfortable as he takes them through the darkest parts of the human psyche. His movies like Caché (Hidden) and Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon) have been called 'psychological horror' due to their unrelenting talent to unearth the worst characteristics of humanity and evoke a maximum of psychological unease with a minimum of tricks and gimmicks. A self-proclaimed opponent of movies that are merely entertainment, Haneke is very critical of Hollywood films which, he feels, force their truth upon the viewer. Now you don't have to agree with the artist to enjoy his work (I don't think it's coincidence that about 2/3 of the IMDb top 250 consists of Hollywood movies), but Haneke's movies sure lack an absolute truth that we as a viewer have to find ourselves. His movies make us think, disturb, repulse and otherwise engage us, provide no easy answers and leave room for multiple interpretations, which is one hallmark of great cinema (nothing wrong with good entertainment, though).

Haneke's cinematic debut already contains the building blocks that are the foundation of much of his later work: people seemingly normal on the surface, but largely dysfunctional on the inside; tensions between family members; long, static camera shots without music, which register events rather than manipulate them. He introduces us to an average family in a rich Western country (which happens to be Austria). The father, mother and daughter seem to lead a perfectly normal life, although we get the feeling from the start that most of this life exists of tedious and joyless repetition of mundane acts, such as dressing, making coffee, working and cooking. There is not much that gives their life a little more color, even watching television or taking the daughter to bed seems like a chore in an endless routine. Haneke uses voice-overs from the parents to illustrate that they have no material shortages or other reason to be unhappy, but the images superimposed on it tell a different story. It is in the subtlety of these scenes that Haneke shows his craftsmanship; he does not manipulate, nothing is said aloud, but we connect with these people anyway, understanding why the daughter fakes blindness because she is lonely and craves attention, or why the mother suddenly starts crying for no apparent reason, and the husband doesn't bother to find out because he knows the source of the pain all too well. When the family finally witnesses an accident with fatal outcome, the audience is being prepared for the solution they have found.

Also infamous are the sudden emotional outbursts between all the serene calmness. The second half is a prime example of this effective contradiction. The family has finally decided how to escape their personal hell, so they calmly arrange all their affairs and have one last copious meal. It is particularly gut-wrenching to see how they then start tearing down their place and destroying almost everything they collected throughout their lives, as if to say that their lives have been so meaningless that they simply want nothing to remain of it. Rarely was there a more visceral and effective way to show a character's self-chosen descent into oblivion. Haneke manages to leave the mother and child with a shred of humanity, though: the daughter crying in agony over the death of her beloved fish, and the mother tearfully preparing to take a fatal overdose, but resolutely forcing the pills in her mouth anyway are profoundly heart-breaking. However, the uncompromising horror of a completely vanished will to live becomes apparent as the father calmly listens to his wife gasping and choking to death, and, in what almost seems a mockery of his daily professional routine, makes a calm and systematic note of his wife's and daughter's death on the wall, before dying himself. The final text that reveals this story to be based on actual events delivers a final blow by showing that this story is no mere product of a writer's imagination, but a grim reality.

Haneke's distant way of filming has become his trademark. Most of the time he reduces scenes to the bare essence, letting the calm determination and efficiency of the characters tell the story or unfold the horror while the audience observes; at other times he draws attention to things by purposely NOT showing them, or merely suggesting them. It is amazing how he manages to have images and scenes stick with us without showing anything actually explicit or shocking. It is his way to force the audience to think, identify and draw its own conclusions. I myself had mixed feelings about the characters, feeling both sympathy for their situation, yet at the same time I couldn't help wondering why they didn't try to actively make something of their unhappy life, instead of waiting for life to happen. He leaves it up to us to decide whether these characters are victims of a hollowed-out Western lifestyle that forces its people into an empty existence of consumerism, or whether they are pathetic people that simply miss some basic human talent to be happy. Haneke is not the one for easy answers, only tough questions.
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9/10
Powerful, terrible, and profoundly disturbing
tomgillespie200218 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A middle-class family, consisting of father Georg (Dieter Berner), mother Anna (Birgit Doll), and young daughter Evi (Leni Tanzer) live out their routine daily lives in apparent discomfort. The film is split into three sections - 1987, 1988, and 1989. The first two years, we are given an insight into their thinking as Anna narrates letters written to her parents. We witness the mundaneness of their lives in scenes showing them eating breakfast, at work, going through a car wash, driving in their car. They are trapped by their repetitive surroundings in an unavoidable consumerist world. The third section sees the parents quitting their jobs, buying power tools, and emptying their bank accounts. They tell people they're going to Australia, only they plan to destroy their home and kill themselves. Haneke is the master of the cold and the uncomfortable. This was his debut feature, only he seemed to have already mastered this skill. In his later films, we witness brutal animal slaughter in Benny's Video (1992), genital mutilation in The Piano Teacher (2001), and possibly the most shocking suicide ever depicted on film in his masterpiece Hidden (2005). In The Seventh Continent, we know what is coming. It is laid out quite early in the film. When it comes, it is every bit as unpleasant as you would hope it wouldn't be. Haneke doesn't need blood or dramatic music. Instead he just lets us hear the last gargled breaths, taking place off-camera, of someone taken an overdose of pills. Powerful, terrible and profoundly disturbing. Haneke, in my opinion, is the world's greatest living director. Granted, the likes of Godard and Herzog are still making films, but their heyday was in the 1960's and 70's respectively. Haneke is in his prime, and their is no-one is making more skillful films. He based The Seventh Continent on a newspaper article he read about a family that committed suicide in a similar fashion (as we learn over the end credits), and uses it as a commentary on a world obsessed with formality. This is certainly not an enjoyable film, but it is one that will linger with me for a long time, which is similar to the effect Hidden had on me. It will occasionally test your patience (scenes are repeated and their are long periods without dialogue), but its power is undeniable. An assured debut.
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10/10
A bleak, passive-horror. A challenging meditation on the hopelessness of the Western bourgeoisie.
danieljfenner26 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It's 1989. As the Cold War was taking its last desperate gasps of air, filled with the debris of that crumbling wall, a demure, isolated and all-too-familiar middle-class family sits at their breakfast table in Austria as they continue to perform their meandering daily activities. Is this a better life? Is this what the Western, free-market promised? Just a bunch of junk they don't need, depressing karaoke television and convenience food? Did this family miss the comfort of Communism? We don't know, but without getting all Fight Club about it, Michael Haneke's debut, The Seventh Continent displays the bourgeois misery that serves as the pilot light of the ensuing self-destruction of Western civilization. With his cold-clinical style using diegetic sound and long takes that challenge our patience, Haneke brings us something more sobering and nihilistic than anything that David Fincher and Chuck Palahniuk could brainstorm.

What makes this film so effective is the vicarious nature of the narrative. These people did what I did in the last week and will probably do again tomorrow. We dine with them, we shower with them. We see ourselves in them. While they are economically stable, they seem to have lost their souls. In typical Haneke fashion, he dissects the ordinary family and isolates their experiences to capture their emptiness. He brings out the themes that we would see in Funny Games and Time of The Wolf. The emasculated, apathetic father, the mother whose emotions are on the edge, as we see when she is going through the car wash that reminds her of the accident they saw in the rain. It's a Kafka tale with no transformation. Nearly a decade later, the US took a crack at this theme with the Oscar-sweeping American Beauty. With that film, Lester Burnham gave the viewer a glimpse into the emotional failure of the American Dream. Yet Lester took charge and gave himself what he wanted. As he defied the control of his wife and shed responsibility, it became the ultimate Men's Rights battle-cry. And as with other American suburban satires, like Happiness, there is still a degree of mythology. Life can be that bad for some people, but not for every member of one family. It comes off as a sort of misery-porn. But Haneke does not allow the audience to have what it wants. He wants to probe us and make us question our priorities and collective reality. There is no dream. No fantasy, because what their wasted potential as humans is too depressing to think about. No escape. Or maybe there is, but what is the cost of that escape?

Without giving too much away, there is a climactic sequence in which the family puts their priorities to the test by destroying their property. What about the record collection? Is that the husband's or the wife's? Is there a feminist subtext behind a woman destroying a man's record collection?

And finally, as far as destruction goes, I will say, that the fish tank scene in this film far exceeds the potency of the Martin Riggs "MINEY MO!" from Lethal Weapon 2.

.....Also from 1989.....(scratching chin)
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agonizingly depressing
dshoham26 June 2000
One of the most chilling movies I have ever seen, the idea for this film was reportedly sparked by real events in Austria. Similar to "Safe" in its depiction of modern anomie, but more powerful. The director is much more sympathetic to the characters than Todd Haynes was in his film.
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7/10
Another "Feel Good" Film From Michael Haneke...
EVOL66626 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
As anyone who is familiar with Haneke's work is aware, he's the director of such cheerful joy-fests as FUNNY GAMES and BENNY'S VIDEO. THE SEVENTH CONTINENT is the third of Haneke's films that I've seen, and I feel much the same about it as his other films. They all tend to be "strong", but in a detached and cold way that makes the unfolding events have less impact than if the characters in the film would have been more "human"...

The film centers around a family who are caught up in the day-to-day routines of an upper-middle-class life. A good portion of the film is focused on the family's (mother, father, and daughter) routines, as opposed to the family itself. We get multiple scenes of eating where the focus is on the monotony of the experience - not on the characters themselves. Several scenes of going to the car-wash, highlighting the mechanisms of the car-wash itself as opposed the people in the vehicle. As the film goes on, we find that the family has grown tired of their useless and repetitive existence and decide to leave it behind...

Yet again, Haneke delves into material such as alienation, hopelessness, anti-socialism - dark territory that seems to be his forte. But as with his other films - this one too left something to be desired from me. I couldn't "connect" with any of the characters involved, so their final bleak outcome had little impact on me. The film was also FAR too long and could have been summed up about 30 minutes earlier. I understand that the repetitive scenes were made to show the mind-frame of the characters and to build suspense for the closing scenes, but I felt like it was being beaten over my head at a certain point. The performances were all decent - but again - this film wasn't so much about the specific characters, but about their lack of any real "characterization". Recommended for those that like down-beat films, or are fans of Haneke's other works - others will find it either too much of a downer, or too boring to be of any worth...7/10
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9/10
What happens when people are dead from the inside?
I saw this movie recently and it blew my mind. The long shots, showing the mundane aspects of life. The camera aiming at the actions rather than the characters, symbolizing the every day ordeal of a conformist life. The eternal agony of a family, who slowly tears apart from everything that connects them with the world.

This is not a pleasant movie to watch. It's sad, bleak, disturbing and angry; and Haneke doesn't make it easier to the viewers. He presents life as it is, without any dramatization; and what it strikes me the most is the pace in which he presents it. The characters doesn't shout (they speak every once in a while), fight or cry their hearts out; they just keep on doing the same things they do every day. However, as you watch closer, you sense that something is completely wrong.

To me this is as an existential film as you can get. The world is there: raw, unsympathetic and indifferent. Everything happens without a reason, without hope; and the character's lack of desire to confront the nothingness of an empty life is the central theme of this movie.

"What happens when people are dead from the inside?" That's what I asked myself after watching this cold, cynical, gem of a movie. Can be someone dead from the inside and alive from the outside?. If so, could that person communicate with any other person? How can we avoid the meaningless things in life? Should we fight them back or surrender to them? Watch this movie and then you may find the answers to those questions..... or may be not. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!. Avoid watching it if you're a bit depressed. This movie is bleak and challenging as hell.
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1/10
Are you guys on drugs?
kmylwnas13 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Seriously, this movie is so boring!

*spoiler coming you'll regret you never read*

The story of the movie is: couple with a daughter, bored of their meaningless everyday lives decided to suicide but first sells all their assets, flushes their money and destroy their belongings.

Thats it!!!! Seriously, thats it, you'll thank me for not letting you see this booooooring 2 hours long movie where nothing happens!!

Endless meaningless scenes like brushing teeth, eating cereal. Static scenes also, no camera movement for the entire movie. I begged for something good to happen but no...
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