Teaming for the fourth time, Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert and Oscar winner Michael Haneke are back at the Cannes Film Festival where it all started. That was back in 2001 with The Piano Teacher, for which Haneke took the Grand Jury Prize and Huppert Best Actress. This year, their Happy End is in Competition, and were it to win the Palme d’Or, would make Haneke the only filmmaker ever to score three of those trophies. He last won in 2012 for Amour (in which Huppert starred), and prior to that took the gold with 2009’s The White Ribbon — Huppert was jury president that year.
I sat down with the pair this week to discuss their overall collaboration, the current film’s themes and the ever-changing technological landscape that has been such a point of debate on the Croisette. Check out our chat in the video above.
Happy End is a dark family satire set in the French port town of Calais. It’s been met with some mixed reactions, although The Guardian‘s five-star review calls it, a “nightmare of haute-bourgeois European prosperity: as stark, brilliant and unforgiving as a halogen light.”
Haneke tells me, “Every film or work of art tries to depict the society it takes place in. The question is to what extent we, the people of the rich nations, are trying to ignore what’s happening to the rest of the world, to the poorest countries. We’re involved in navel-gazing, we’re involved in our own lives. And as little as possible, we try to concern ourselves with the people whose backs we stand on.”
Huppert calls Haneke a combination of Robert Bresson and Alfred Hitchcock. She is coming off a whirlwind year that saw her win a Golden Globe as Best Actress for last year’s Cannes entry Elle. She was also Oscar nominated for the role and took a host of other prizes.
Of working with Haneke, she says, “He’s very radical, he doesn’t compromise. He makes a statement about the world and he goes all the way and it’s completely free in that sense. I like him being so extreme. It’s very rare for a filmmaker.”
On the question of advancing technology, Haneke says, “It’s absolutely impossible to imagine where it will go over the next 20 years. Like all technological change, it’s changed all our lives incredibly and very quickly. It’s absolutely impossible to imagine where the media universe is going to go and what role films will play in how they’ll be seen.”