Time of the Wolf (Temps du Loup, Le) (2003)

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Released 17-May-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Director Michael Haneke and Isabelle Huppert
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Essay on the work of Michael Haneke by film scholar J Tong
Notes-Michael Haneke's Le Temps Du Loup
Trailer-Adverting
Trailer-Cache(Hidden), Show Me Love and Tickets
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 108:28 (Case: 114)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Haneke
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Isabelle Huppert
Béatrice Dalle
Patrice Chéreau
Rona Hartner
Maurice Bénichou
Olivier Gourmet
Brigitte Roüan
Lucas Biscombe
Hakim Taleb
Anaïs Demoustier
Serge Riaboukine
Marilyne Even
Florence Loiret
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

  

Hard is it on earth, | with mighty whoredom;
Axe-time, sword-time, | shields are sundered,
Wind-time, wolf-time, | ere the world falls;
Nor ever shall men | each other spare.

The Codex Regius c1270

    If ever they host a Michael Haneke retrospective I can imagine that the management will need to provide exit counsellors, for the quietly spoken Austrian director focuses on the darkest recesses of the human psyche. His films are a challenge and sometimes an endurance test for the audience.

    His films have their ardent supporters but also their strong critics who argue that the determination to shock (particularly in films like Benny's Video and Funny Games) and subvert is at the expense of meaning. Amongst some of the pre-eminent critics (who barely survive on a diet of half-baked romantic comedies and brain-dead action flicks) each of his works is received as manna from heaven.

    What is undisputed is that each of his films presents a lesson in anti-film questioning the art of seeing and our engagement with cinema.

    Time of the Wolf (Le Temps Du Loup) is no exception. Haneke takes us deep into a post apocalyptic nightmare with a stillness and seemingly unfocussed direction that is at turns stunning and infuriating. The title is taken from the ancient Scandinavian text above and is illustrative of the death of the old order and the beginning of a new society in harsh surroundings.

    Euro angst-maid Isabelle Hupert plays Anne Laurent, a married woman with two children; teenage Bea (Brigitte Rouan) and pre-teen Ben (Lucas Biscombe). When the movie starts we see the family escaping from some unnamed and unexplained societal meltdown. Fleeing to their holiday home in the countryside they are met by a family which has taken over the house. Father is killed and mother and children are forced to flee again into an unforgiving world. Searching for humanity in this world is a fruitless exercise. Friends close their doors on the family and the odd train rumbling through the countryside never stops to take them onboard.

    The film follows their journeys through deserted countryside until they meet a group of people staying at an abandoned train station. The numbers swell and this new society creates its leaders and its led. The stragglers are initially lorded over by the pragmatist Kozlowski. He imposes order, but is he a flawed leader or simply a ruthless opportunist? The only spark of hope is in the early appearance of a boy fending for himself amongst the madness. For all his feral desire to survive it is he that, outside of the new society, offers the most help and kindness.

    Although it sounds like a modern Omega Man, Time of the Wolf couldn't be any further from a science fiction movie. Haneke is not interested in the whys and wherefores - the apocalypse remains unexplained. It is simply a backdrop for his open examination of the bared teeth behind each human in the face of desperation. It has been trendy in some quarters to see the film as an examination of the third world as seen by the privileged first world but this probably overstates Haneke's intentions, although he does admit that he wanted to make a disaster movie for the affluent society. Ultimately his film is classless - everyone is in the same boat, people starve and die and swap sexual favours for a drink of water.

"A feature film is twenty-four lies per second." -- Michael Haneke

    It is not just the subject matter which is disturbing. Haneke is a master of alienation and distance. He attempts to break down our understanding and reaction to cinema and its conventions. As he says above, for too long we as an audience have been complacent and too prepared to sit in a cinema and accept the images on the scene without question.

    A few examples: The credit sequence goes on for about two and a half minutes. It is soundless with white credits on a black background. The effect is to get the viewers' palms itchy with foreboding and nervousness. We expect and demand some sound or music and feel uncomfortable about its absence. In fact, there is very little sound at all in the movie besides dialogue. The world after the apocalypse is still and quiet with only random acts of violence to break the silence.

    Further, in an early scene the family are separated in the dark. It is really dark, pitch black in fact, and the only light is from a distant signal fire and occasional lighter flares. We are with the family lost in the darkness for every moment until the effect becomes quite suffocating in a way that recalls the criminally underrated The Blair Witch Project.

    As if alive itself Haneke's camera roams and picks out characters who assume importance and then fade away into the background. Forever defying expectations he allows Anna to sputter and fade rather than gird her loins and take her family to a radiant tomorrow. This is a world without heroes. There are no easy answers - perhaps there are no answers in the film and that is the greatness of Haneke. We have to provide the answers ourselves.

    Time of the Wolf was an early idea for Haneke but it was eventually filmed and released after the huge success that was The Piano Teacher. Those who found that film's balance of fetishism, incest and self-mutilation too much will find that Time of the Wolf is gentle by comparison. However, the whirlpool of despair is well in evidence and no-one should confuse this for light entertainment. I should also warn that the film does contain scenes of the actual killing of a few horses which are unnecessarily graphic.

    Time of the Wolf provides a clear bridge between the early films of Haneke and his latest film, the claustrophobic Cache.

    It was not an unqualified success, being booed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, yet some critics describe it as a masterpiece of the new millennium. Such is the ability of Haneke to divide. The idly curious need not apply. This is a film that tests and retests with each viewing. Those who take the journey may want to take it again to savour its complex simplicity.

    In an age with many directors Haneke is an auteur. Time of the Wolf may be remembered in years to come as an undiscovered treasure.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Time of the Wolf was shot on 35mm film at an unusual (for a European film) original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

    In the extra features Haneke does not give his reasons for choosing the widescreen look. Both The Piano Teacher and Cache had original aspect ratios of 1.85:1. It seems to me that the effect of this choice is to further isolate his characters in their environment. In the wide shots of the family's journey they are dwarfed by the environment which is empty. The emptiness speaks volumes. Then, in the interior shots the wide angle allows the camera to focus, or not focus, on a range of characters suggesting that Haneke doesn't want us to be constrained by convention just to watch one character but rather to just take in the surroundings.

    Time of the Wolf is presented in its original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film looks good although clarity and beauty are not really Haneke's objective. There is some slight grain and a few minor problems in the scenes featuring smoke and fog but otherwise the transfer is exceptional with no defects or noticeable problems. A great deal of the movie was shot in the dark and it is pleasing to note the deep black levels.

    The film is in French and features removable subtitles. One set of characters speak another language which is not translated as this emphasises the lack of communication between the characters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound in Time of the Wolf comes in both French Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 (224Kb/s). I listened to both versions in parts and was unable to hear much difference in quality except that the 5.1 mix is significantly louder. The film has very little in the way of sound except for dialogue. Importantly, the silences are clear and stark.

    There is no musical score at all in the film although there are a few brief interludes where a Beethoven sonata is played on an old tape player.

    The characters appear to be in lip sync throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are several interesting extras included on this DVD.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    This is a simple image of the young boy standing in front of a fire accompanied by some crackling noises.

Interviews-Cast & Crew Haneke (3.42)

    Haneke talks about his idea to make the film and his working relationship with Isabelle Huppert. Interestingly, he says that rather than explain his films he wants to erase all traces of how the film is made to let the viewer make of it what they will.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes (7.13)

    This is an interesting featurette showing Haneke at work often in front of the camera guiding and gently working with his actors. This extra is not subtitled.

Featurette-Making Of (20.15)

    This feature includes both extended interview material with Haneke and Huppert (although some is repeated) and a lot of backstage work. Besides Huppert it gives the children in the film a chance to talk and even shows an extended sequence with the children doing some filming of their own. Huppert confirms that Haneke doesn't explain to the actors what happened in the apocalypse and lets them work out their own backstories.

Interviews-Cast & Crew Isabelle Huppert (4.06)

    Huppert speaks in English about her role and her relationship with Haneke. She suggests that more so than Bresson, the master of observation and stillness, Haneke should be compared with Hitchcock for his ability to use simple techniques to create tension.

Notes

    For the serious film watcher (or anyone else trying to work out what it was all about!) the DVD includes a 10 page booklet written by cinephile Janice Tong which deals with the film and the works of Michael Haneke. Well written, it provides an excellent addition to the DVD package.

Trailer

    This is a selection of other recent releases including a trailer for the soon to be released Cache.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   There is not a great deal of variety between the different region versions. The main difference would seem to be the inclusion of different trailers in Region 1 but the omission of the longest extra. The Region 4 edition would seem to be the best if only by reason of the essay.

Summary

    Anyone who despairs at the thought of another Hollywood spectacle empty of meaning and bereft of ideas should quickly seek out Time of The Wolf, or any other Haneke film for that matter. Time of the Wolf is never nail-scrapingly unwatchable like some of his earlier films although it should never be confused for pure entertainment. The long slow takes and still direction make for an unsettling portrait of the world of tomorrow.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, July 24, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

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