Let’s remember Michael Haneke’s opinion on Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”

What you need to know:

With a recent statement by Steven Spielberg on “The Zone of Interest” we remember Michael Haneke’s opinion on “Schindler’s List”.

The zone of interest by Jonathan Glazer It is one of the most remarkable films of 2023, which has gained relevance among audiences since its premiere at the Cannes Festival. The tape has five Oscar nominations and was praised by directors like Alfonso Cuaron and Steven Spielberg.

Cuarón said it was the most important film of the century“. How it is. And Steven Spielberg said that has done a very good job of raising awareness, particularly of the banality of evil“. However, it wasn’t the only thing the American filmmaker said. Also He claimed it was the best film about the Holocaust… after his own. And if?

Image from “The Zone of Interest”
Image from “The Zone of Interest” / Photo: A24

Steven Spielberg mentioned this in an interview The zone of interestIt’s the best Holocaust film I’ve seen since mine.“. And when he says “mine,” he means it Schindlers Listwhich premiered in 1993 with Liam Neeson in the lead role, against the backdrop of the story of Oskar Schindlerthe German who saved thousands of Jews during World War II.

This statement from Spielberg has divided some opinions, particularly from Yes Schindlers List It is the best film about the Holocaust. And to talk about it, let’s remember a few Statements by Michael Haneke from 2012 about this and that film now have more meaning and relevance.

Liam Neeson in Steven Spielberg's
Liam Neeson in “Schindler’s List” by Steven Spielberg / Photo: Berlinale

Michael Haneke on manipulation

In 2012 Michael Haneke was released Love, one of the most brutal films about two complex themes that have a close relationship with each other: death and love. To talk about this film that Haneke was involved in a round table of screenwriters hosted by The Hollywood Reporter.

Haneke appeared next to it John Krasinski (Promised land), Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Judd Apatow (That’s 40), Chris Terrio (Argo) And David Magee (Life of Pi: Shipwreck with Tiger). At some point in the conversation, the figure of Osama bin Laden, who is the central figure of, was discussed Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow.

Director Michael Haneke comes to television with the series “Kelvin's Book”.
Michael Haneke / Photo: Getty Images

The moderator questioned Michael Haneke the risks of humanizing figures like Osama bin Laden or Hitler (based on the German film The autumn) and make the audience empathize with these characters.

Haneke spoke about the creators’ inherent responsibility not only to the person in the film, but also to the audience. “Responsibility means motivating your audience to remain independent and free from manipulation… Am I trying to force my opinion on the viewer or, on the contrary, am I taking him seriously and helping him form his own opinion?“.

Adolf Hitler / Photo: Keystone/Getty Images.

Michael Haneke, Schindler’s List and the film most responsible for the Holocaust

So the moderator asked him whether he would make a film about Hitler. And the answer was overwhelming: no. It’s impossible for me to do that because I have the idea of ​​creating entertainment with it and turning it into something entertaining.“.

And so he mentioned Spielberg and his film. “That’s why, for example, I have problems with Steven Spielberg’s film about concentration camps. The idea, the sole idea, of creating tension in the part where they don’t know whether gas or water is coming from the showers is indescribable to me.“.

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Haneke said there was only one director who would take responsibility for a Holocaust film. Is about night and Fog (1956) by Alain Resnais. “Resnais, in the film, The viewer is asked what he thinks, what position he takes on this issue and what it means. That’s what it’s about… Anything that deals with this topic as entertainment is indescribable to me.“.

Image from “Night and Fog”
Image from “Night and Fog” by Alain Resnais / Photo: Criterion Collection

night and Fog is a documentary film of just 30 minutes (for many this definition is not fair) by the writer Jean Cayrol. who was imprisoned in a concentration camp. And why isn’t it considered a documentary? Because the film itself tells us that it is impossible to “document” the horrors experienced in these spaces.

Resnais created a structure that searched a balance of archival materialpresented in black and white, and the material collected 10 years after the concentration camps were closed and that is shown in color.

And on top of all that… What is the Zone of Interest about?

However. The zone of interest Introduce usto the Höss family, which is part of the Artaman League, an ideology that proposed the return of families to the countryside. The father is Commander Rudolf Höss, who runs the Auschwitz concentration camp.

So he sets up his house next to the extermination camp with his wife Hedwig and his children. What Glazer does with this film without having to show literal expressions of violence is the brutality of ideologies that point to hate speech from everyday life.

This refers to the possibilities of understanding the world from home and thus the normalization of certain behaviors and violence. The Höss family has a garden and a beautiful house, they are happy, while in the background you can see the smoke and hear some screams.

The zone of interest It doesn’t look like it at all Schindlers List, because they have different positions on the Holocaust. And this is where Haneke’s opinion comes into play, which, although it has been 12 years since he expressed it, resonates strongly today in the discussion that is taking place about it The zone of interest It has generated.

What Glazer does is create a discourse about the normalization of violence when an ideology is assumed to be absolute, especially if it is based on violence. And as Spielberg says, the film succeeds in speaking to the banality of evil as an increasingly commonplace act.

What it does Schindlers ListHowever, it is a mere statement that repeats Haneke’s comment reinforce the horror of violence through images that appeal to two of the audience’s most basic emotions, namely sadness and fear.

We’re sorry because we know that What happened in the Holocaust is a historical certainty. So, Why present a story that assumes some tension about the victims’ chances of survival?

What do you think?

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