Michael Haneke’s disarming visions

Michael Haneke's films can be read as a series of polemical correctives to the morally questionable viewing practices. This chapter explores the ways in which Code inconnu: récit incomplet de divers voyages, La Pianiste, Le Temps du loup and Caché reconceptualise ethical relations and responsibilities in an image-saturated culture bereft of moral certainties and stable cause and effect relationships. It focuses in two forms of relations: between Haneke's on-screen protagonists; and between viewers and his images. Haneke seeks to nurture an 'interactive' viewer engaged in a critical dialogue with his sounds and images. In theory, the ethical value of such 'interactivity' would reside in its potential to re-empower and disarm the spectator. In the context of a body of work which censures the media's liability to keep others' suffering at a comfortable distance, Code inconnu might be read as an attempt to intervene in and reverse this process.

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