Michael Haneke drags "Schindler's List", "Downfall"

As part of The Hollywood Reporter's Roundtable series, THR's executive editor Stephen Galloway sat down at The Residences at the W Hollywood with a panel of writers that included Michael Haneke and John Krasinski in a conversation that featured a discussion of the fine line between humanizing and sympathizing with certain historical figures.

THR: OK, if you were going to show Osama bin Laden, to what extent do you humanize a guy like that? There was a very good German film, Downfall, about the last days of Hitler, and it was an extraordinary human portrait. The danger is whitewashing what he's done.

Michael Haneke: I have to say that I argued with Downfall writer-producer Bernd Eichinger about the film. I found it both repulsive and dumb. When you're dealing with a figure of such a deep historical context, what are you doing with him? You're creating melodrama. You're trying to move your spectators, but what emotions are you calling on? Your responsibility entails enabling your audience to remain independent and free of manipulation. The question is, how seriously do I take my viewer and to what extent do I provide him with the opportunity of creating his own opinion? Am I trying to force my opinion on the spectator?

THR: Would you make a film about Hitler?

Haneke: No. It's impossible for me, turning this into entertainment. That's why I have problems with Steven Spielberg's film about the concentration camps [Schindler's List]. The mere idea of trying to create suspense out of the question of whether the showerhead gas is going to come is unspeakable. For me, the only film about the Holocaust that is responsible is Alain Resnais' Night and Fog. Resnais asks the spectator: What do you think about this? What does this mean to you?

Chris Terrio: I'm very interested in what Michael said about the suspense of the shower in Schindler's List because in a sense it's the same in Argo. I'm not sure about the ethical implications of taking real people's lives and trying to make it a nail-biter.


The Full InterviewCollapse ).

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