Knowingly Bent: Our Review of ‘Happy End’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2017 by - January 11, 2018
Knowingly Bent: Our Review of ‘Happy End’

It’s hard to ignore that eternal dysfunction that is present in all of our lives…its called family.

Happy End is a beautifully bent yarn from the one and only Michael Haneke that while somewhat of a disjointed sequel to one of his previous efforts in Amour also plays out as a darkly comic affair as we track this disintegration of a family with the European refugee crisis playing out in the background.  It allows the dark an unrepentant vibe that we get from this family make us howl in uncomfortable delight rather than recoil in uncomfortable as this social commentary on the state of youth, the elderly and the family unit all come into play.

At the core of their austere and bourgeois veneer, everyone in the Laurent family has a secret.  That means everyone which includes its octogenarian patriarch (Jean Louis Trintignant), his icy daughter (Isabelle Huppert), his unfaithful son (Mathieu Kassovitz) and his preteen granddaughter (Fantine Harduin) who may be just be the poster child for sociopathic behaviour being born out of social media.  On the opposite end of the spectrum as this family of affluence implodes there are refugees including this families own servants who are struggling to survive.

It’s Haneke at his bent best here as Happy End coils out a statement on society as we know it.  It’s dark, it’s depressing but it’s also kind of goddamn funny because we really don’t have much else that we can do other then laugh at it.

Anger and resentment are littered throughout this story but it’s all so misplaced.  Haneke uses this as a commentary on the upper classes and the overall blindness of the bourgeoisie to the world around them.  These people are oblivious to their own genuine despair in a loveless world and its equal parts maddening yet so completely compelling.  It feels like the Laurent family needs a vacation with the Brown family of the Paddington movies and while it all leans on elements from a variety of his other films, rarely do we get the genuine essence of simply not giving a fuck anymore about what anybody thinks about him.  It’s a story that rides the knife edge of self confidence and crippling doubt, keeping us on edge as an audience not knowing when we should be laughing, crying or downright terrified at the behaviour we see in front of us, and usually the answer is actually all three.

Very much an ensemble piece, it’s anchored by patriarch Jean-Louis Trintignant; a veteran of Haneke’s film playing a man who very much wants to die.  He’s not angry or sad really, he just doesn’t give a fuck anymore and if that doesn’t capture a huge part of the modern social ethos then I really don’t know what does anymore.  Isabelle Huppert is her usual stalwart self trying to keep this clan together but it never really moves as a film of performances yet it’s a film of mood as we watch these characters try to navigate their way through it all.

While this film holds true to many of the themes that Haneke has explored previously in his films, Happy End feels different.  Perhaps in a knowingly macabre way that allows us as a viewer to take a little bit of the venom out of life and appreciate the fact that no matter our status in life, we’ve all got problems but it’s just so important to make sure we don’t define ourselves by them.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.