“The Seventh Continent” (1989) by Michael Haneke

Original poster for the 1989 Michael Haneke film The Seventh Continent in which

Title: The Seventh Continent
Director: Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke and Johanna Teicht.
Stars: Birgit Doll, Dieter Berner, and Leni Tanzer.
Year Released: 1989
Runtime: 104 minutes
Country: Austria
Aspect: 1.66:1

It Takes Some Courage to Watch a Michael Haneke Film

It’s apt to speak of courage because watching a film by Michael Haneke always requires some sort of fortitude. Invariably, some kind of violence awaits.

So I knew when I read the description of this film by the Criterion Collection channel, as the film is said to “build to an annihilating encounter with the televisual void that powerfully synthesizes Haneke’s ideas about the link between violence and our culture of manufactured emotion.”

Eh, someone goes postal and kills some innocent bystanders at the bus stop in Vienna. Big deal. I can handle that.

A Summary of The Seventh Continent

Note to reader, the following summary of the film The Seventh Continent does not pretend to be exhaustive. It has left out some parts, included a funny scene in which an old woman explains how she was cursed to have to wear glasses.

“Erstes Teil, 1987” Or, Alles Gut! [Everything is Great!]

From the beginning you watch and see the “manufactured emotions” in the humdrum monotony of bougie Austrian existence. The film begins with a car’s license plate being hosed down by an automatic car wash. Slowly we watch the parts of the car going through the car wash. “Nicht Bremsen.” The car exits and turns past a sign promotional billboard with a beach that says, “Welcome to Australia.”

A brilliant set of scenes in which people get out of bed, have breakfast, feed the fish, leave the house, drop off the daughter at school, let off the wife at the business, watch the husband arrive at work.

In the midst of this, the voiceover of the daughter in law, Anna, writing a letter to Georges’ parents. That Anna’s brother Alexander had gone through a stultifying emotional crisis after the death of their mother. Had been hospitalized with “terrible” treatments. But, that he’d gotten better with the passing of time. That Georges’ ambition at work had not been forestalled by a difficult supervisor desperately clinging to his position. And that Eva, their “problem child,” had overcome her asthma.

But then we see Eva at school, pretending to be blind. And Alexander comes to dinner and things are going swimmingly, until he breaks down.

“Zweiter Teil, 1988” Or, The Dread of Human Existence Confronted

George and Anna are having sex. Waking up. It’s raining. Having breakfast. Leaving for work. Eva feeds the fish in the very large fish tank [50 gallons?]

Again Georges at work with Anna’s voiceover, writing her letter to his parents, explaining that he’d been promoted, his former supervisor left work because of illness, his new boss is a gourmand and they’ve invited him and his wife for dinner.

Anna picks up Georges at work. [Wait, what? Didn’t George drop her off?] It’s still raining. Cats and dogs. They’ve picked up Eva and are driving home. But an accident slows their way home. A dead body beside the road, covered with plastic. A wrecked car. Polizei.

They are in a car wash, again. Anna begins crying.

“Dritter Teil, 1989” Or How To Destroy Your Material Existence.

They are leaving Georges’ parents home, packing the car. No faces until we need to see the parents waving after them. They complain that Georges will never write them.

Georges driving his new car to work, where he begins voicing over the letter to his parents, about their imminent departure: that he has quit his position, that Anna has sold her part of the business to her brother. That they had had much difficulty deciding what to do about Eva, should they take her with her.

Anna informs Eva’s school that she is quite sick and will be absent for more than a few days. Georges purchases all of the tools that one might need in order to destroy all of one’s worldly possessions.

They sell the brand new car, with the buyer checking out the car at a junkyard while Eva stands amidst the wreckage of other automobiles.

George and Eva arrive home by taxi, just as a van delivers many sumptuous foods. The family eats well and goes to bed. The phone rings and Georges answers, immediately hanging up, then not putting the phone back on the receiver. [Cannot receive calls now, new people]

The next morning the destruction begins. Georges reminds Eva to wear her heavy shoes for fear she may get hurt.

Records broken by Anna. Children’s books, drawings, destroyed by Eva. George takes apart chests of drawers, submits them to the violence of a sledgehammer. A couch ripped apart. A vanity’s mirror shattered. Its drawers each ripped apart. Pictures taken off the wall [although not destroyed]. Collections of personal photographs, each individually ripped in half.

A crash, Anna’s cry “No!”, and the magisterial fish tank is no more. Water all over the floor, but more importantly, all of those fish falling among the vestiges of a human life. Flopping on ripped rugs. Drowning of oxygen on the remainders of a broken piece of furniture

A toilet where Geld is being flushed. First the paper bills, then the Kleingeld.

Should I say what else happens? Eva drinks something bitter. Then Anna drinks something bitter. Then Georges. He throws up, takes what’s leftover of the pills that they’ve been hoarding, planning for this moment. Writes on the wall, “Eva, 11/11/89 22:00. Anna, 11/12/89 2:00. Georges … 2