Oscar and double Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke has become the latest prominent European artist to lament what he calls a “witch hunt” in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Speaking with Kurier, the Austrian filmmaker said there is no question that “any form of rape or coercion is punishable… But this hysterical pre-judgment which is spreading now, I find absolutely disgusting. And I don’t want to know how many of these accusations related to incidents 20 or 30 years ago are primarily statements that have little to do with sexual assault.”
The renown director of Amour, The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher and last year’s Happy End allowed he would probably be referred to as “Haneke, the male chauvinist pig” after making the comments in the interview. He qualified his statements saying the current debate is disturbing because of “the blind rage that’s not based on facts and the prejudices that destroy the lives of people whose crime has not been proved in numerous cases. People are simply assassinated in the media, ruining lives and careers.”
Asked if this escalation can help transform society for the better, Haneke responded, “Any shi*storm that even comes out on the forums of serious online news outlets after such ‘revelations’ poisons the social climate. And this makes every argument on this very important subject even more difficult. The malignancy that hits you on the internet often stifles you. This new puritanism imbued with a hatred of men that comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement worries me.”
He noted that Nagisa Ôshima’s film In The Realm Of The Senses, which he calls “one of the deepest and most profound on the subject of sexuality,” could not be made today “because the funding institutions would not allow this, anticipating obedience to this terror. Suspected actors are cut out of movies and TV series in order not to lose (audiences). Where are we living? In the new Middle Ages?”
Haneke stressed that “this has nothing to do with the fact that every sexual assault and all violence — whether against women or men — should be condemned and punished. But the witch hunt should be left in the Middle Ages.”
The filmmaker, who recently teamed with UFA Fiction to create his first TV series, dystopian drama Kelvin’s Book, is the latest to speak out on the perceived negative consequences of #MeToo. In January, French actress Catherine Deneuve was among 100 women who signed an open letter, slamming what they termed “expeditious justice” spurred by the movement. Brigitte Bardot has also criticized the movement and prominent French film distributor Stéphane Célérier recently compared the current situation to that of the Salem witches.