Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery.
71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls: Impactful, Subtle, and the Perfect Finale
After watching Der Siebente Kontinent and Benny's Video in rather rapid succession, it took me an inexplicably long time to get around to this, the third in Michael Haneke's Glaciation Trilogy, the director's exploration of isolation and alienation in modern society.
Following the unrelated stories of an array of everyday Austrians, 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls explores the weeks immediately before a bank shooting that leaves four, including the gunman, dead.
A written introduction tells us the eventual outcome of the film's events, leading us immediately to conclude that the climactic crescendo to which we will build is not so much the film's subject as a means by which to explain it. What follows is a ninety minute procession of apparently unrelated stories unfolding before us, detailing the lives of everyday people. From a lonely old man to a couple fostering an aloof child, a border hopping street urchin to an austere and religious security guard and his wife, the film covers many lives and relationships. The transitions between these are marked by a black screen, with occasional footage of news stories interjected throughout. These show us the chaos and anarchy of the characters' world, bitesize glimpses into everyday horrors. Perhaps the only discernible thing connecting them is the mire of insanity which occupies their television screens, something best remembered for later. Each miniature story is compelling and interesting, a fine achievement given the limited screen time each gets with such an array of characters to be explored. Some, of course, engender more interest than others, the old man and student characters two which I found myself particularly drawn to. Haneke, unsurprisingly, constructs long and unconventional shots, beautiful in their individuality. An early morning ritual scene recalls Der Siebente Kontinent, the camera's focus on actions rather than faces an important technique in establishing the life of this particular family. A long and winding scene featuring the elderly man on the phone to his daughter is, though entirely banal and mundane, one of the film's strongest moments, its ability to so simply yet comprehensively detail a character quite wonderful. Though one might argue that the film appears to go in no clear direction for most of its running time, this is a clear part of its slowly unfolding eventual plan. It is only in the last ten minutes of the film that we see anything more than a fly-on-the-wall documentary of regular lives and are introduced to the film's true message: one that is impactful, subtle, and the perfect finale for a trilogy that delightfully explores its chosen theme.
Creating portraits of a wide number of characters, each more intimate than many films' main characters, 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls is a very fine final act in a very fine trilogy. Just as subtle, removed, and non-judgmental as its predecessors, this is a comprehensive and thought-provoking social commentary which will doubtlessly benefit from multiple viewings, perhaps even more so than its cinematic siblings.
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