“Compassion, you say? Sorry, that’s a luxury I can’t afford.” These are the words spoken, by a character, played by Beatrice Dalle, in Michael Haneke’s Time of the Wolf (2003). This is a post-apocalyptic film following the events right after the disaster. In this film the disaster is never shown and never explained, as to how the world ended.
The film opens with a van driving back to its residency. This gives the viewer a clue that the “disaster”, which stopped the world, has happened not too long ago. If it had even been a year since the “disaster” there would be no more fuel for the van. The family gathers supplies from the van, to bring back into the house. Unknowingly does the family find their own house occupied by another family, who forces them out with a gun and killing the father.
Anne, played by the amazing Isabelle Huppert, takes her son and daughter to the nearest town to find refuge but is continually turned away. They wander around until the come to a small barn in the middle of nowhere. While the family is sleeping the young boy disappears. Anne and her daughter wake up and begin to look for the missing boy. This scene really shows the futility of the search.
Since they are out in the middle of nowhere there are no lights to help guide them in the search for the boy. The barn has some straw which is burned to use as a torch, but it does not work well. The straw burns up so quickly only giving Anne enough time to only see for a few seconds and few feet in front of her. After some time searching, Anne returns to her daughter because the straw in the barn has caught fire and is now burning the barn, with the son still not found.
Upon waking up the next day the boy has returned, only to a burned down barn with a strange kid holding him captive. He does this to protect himself from Anne and her daughter attacking him. The strange kid realizes Anne and her daughter are not a threat and joins the group.
They eventually make their way to a train station with other survivors, in hope of catching the train, to take them back to the city. There are others, with the same idea, and the handful of people, at the train station, becomes more of a small community. Within the small community the regular entrapments of society continue with people holding petty grudges against each other while only looking out for themselves.
I like to think of this film as a companion piece to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), and vice versa. The Road would take place sometime after this film, showing more desolation of the way things have transpired. Both works have a similar theme to say about society and human nature.
This film, unlike the others I’ve seen by Haneke, is an ensemble piece. Time of the Wolf does not focus on just one person in particular but focuses on Anne, her daughter, and son. I think if the film were to follow only one of those characters it might have been stronger. That is to say this is not a bad film but not as enthralling as Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2002) or Cache (2005). Like the two films just mentioned, this film does the same in having the last image stick with you longer after the film is over, and keeps you pondering its meaning. I think this film suggests that compassion is something we cannot afford to disregard.
trailer –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXB9sCa3VGw