A Horrified And Sympathetic Response To Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent

So I’ve got a little something in the latest issue of Drunken Boat.

If you’ll indulge me in some meta commentary, the origin of this essay is a little interesting (at least to me). I’m a fan of Michael Haneke’s films, and eventually I got to his film The Seventh Continent. This was Haneke’s first movie, and it bears a lot of the marks of the long career in theater that preceded his becoming a director, so maybe this helps account for the fact that this thing got to me like nothing of Haneke’s I’d ever seen. And I’d pretty much seen the infamously grotesque ones at that point.

Short story: I could not get this movie out of my head. It haunted me, and I use that very advisedly—I hate how overused that word is, and I pretty much never use it, but in this case it really did haunt me. For a while there I would be talking to someone and break out in one of these breathless, incoherent explanations of how much of an amazing experience this film had been for me, all without giving away the plot details that had blown me away as I watched the movie.

So eventually I realized, I should just write this out. After a feverish 2 hours I had the bones of an essay. I put a lot of work into revising it thereafter, but whenever I worked on this piece I always tried to maintain the heat of those initial two hours, when it felt like I was just along for a really fast and bumpy ride.

This essay also was the beginning of a project that is ongoing—a series of such essays, all built around a single movie that proved to me a similarly overwhelming experience.

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I remember the first time I saw this film, which was also my first experience with Haneke. It was on a now out-of-print VHS tape I rented from Vidiots in Santa Monica. The title and mysterious cover intrigued me, as did a blurb from Jonathan Rosenbaum. When I took it up to the counter, the clerk told me I had made a mistake, that I really didn’t want to see the film because it would ruin my day, if not my week or maybe my life. Of course, that only made me want to see it more.

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