Michael Haneke’s new film gleams with cold gallows humour. There’s blunt, rasping comedy to be found in its thematic grimness (Happy Endmight also be titled Death Wish), though the Austrian director’s bleak worldview won’t be to everyone’s taste.
The plot begins with 13 year-old Eve (Fantine Harduin), who is forced to stay with her father Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), in Calais, with his new wife and their young child after her mother overdoses. Also living in the Laurent family home is Thomas’s sister, severe real estate developer Anne (Isabelle Huppert), and their depressed father Georges (Jean-Louis
Trintignant of Haneke’s Amour), who at a robust 84 is “too healthy” to qualify for the assisted suicide he seeks, and so must make alternative arrangements. Eve moves quietly, watching the adults around her.
One of the most interesting things about Happy Endis the way Haneke’s camera captures the act of watching; always interested in technology and surveillance, here he often favours fixed perspectives, trailing his characters over the shoulder or looking with detachment from an unmoving vantage point. A fist-fight plays out from a voyeuristic, clinical remove, while the film’s opening takes place via a series of darkly funny Snapchat-style videos. Eve discovers her father’s laptop and a series of messages on a Facebook-style website.