More on Time of the Wolf

Below are my comments on the Time of the Wolf post over at Milk Plus. Warning: spoilers ahead. I doubt many people will be seeing this film, but personally I think most of the film’s meaning comes in the last 3-4 minutes of the film, so I didn’t really want to talk about that in previous posts. But since I’ve already opened that can o’ worms, I might as well reprint it here:

time of the wolf may give a sense of what the refugee experience is like, but the film is hardly a mere slice of life. haneke seems to always be going for universal themes in his films, and personally i see this film as having one main point: we, as humans, need our illusions. this film strips away all society’s illusions of comfort and safety and right and wrong and what is the only relief in the end? a man cooing a bunch of nonsense about racecars and trains and other bullshit that honestly gives this devastated boy some relief. and it gives the viewer relief as well. as does the final shot off the train, even though we don’t know if it’ll ever show. it’s illusory hope, but that’s what this film is saying. illusory hope is all we have, and we NEED it to keep going.

9 Responses to “More on Time of the Wolf”

  1. beat waydown
    July 26th, 2004 | 10:38 pm

    80% of the world lives on less than $1 a day. no kidding. that’s the official statistic. what is hope? people build walls. people need escapes. hope is not hiding or fleeing. maybe we just need to live like our pets: simply and lovingly.

  2. cynthia rockwell
    July 26th, 2004 | 11:04 pm

    have you seen the film?

  3. beat waydown
    July 27th, 2004 | 3:51 am

    The film? No. Just the way your consciousness of it interacts with my ideas. That’s about it. I think the theme vicarously through your retelling of the main crisis: socialized civilization, and the displacement of the confused individual in mass culture. Or maybe not.

  4. Filmbrain
    July 27th, 2004 | 3:39 pm

    To me, TOTW was a reversal for Haneke. Forgetting the train for a moment, the scene with the boy and the man (who up until that point had been portrayed as anything but compassionate) offered a real sense of hope that I’ve not found in any of Haneke’s other films. I mean — The Pianist, Funny Games, Benny’s Video — not a lot of optimism there.

  5. cynthia rockwell
    July 27th, 2004 | 3:43 pm

    true, though i don’t think i’d call this a complete reversal. offering only illusory hope is sort of more of the same–another way of saying there is no hope. that train could be going the opposite direction, it could have already passed, it could never show up. personally i think that shot is intended to offer relief for the viewer only, while the nonsense he coos to the boy does offer relief, but it is also nonsense, no *real* reassurance, just a bunch of sweet nothings. and it helps.

  6. Filmbrain
    July 28th, 2004 | 1:36 pm

    You know — I’ve been chewing over your statement since yesterday, and I don’t know what to think. Until I read your comment on Milk Plus I would have never thought that way about the scene with the boy. My knee-jerk reaction is to call you a cynic — how can you say that what he told the boy is nonsense? That a child that young should even have the idea to sacrifice himself is already saying a whole lot. And that an otherwise monstrous character can calm the boy with tales of cars and trains is really quite beautiful.

    However, I wouldn’t categorize you as a “glass half empty” type, so I’ve really been thinking about what you wrote. I don’t agree that the scene is about relief to the viewer — at least there’s nothing in his earlier films to justify that statement. Funny Games is all about never offering relief to the viewer — is it likely that he’d switch now? Was Haneke not implying that even after all the inhumanity the boy experienced, there was still genuine hope for him? Maybe those words offered a different type of reassurance — one that is indeed nonsense for an adult, but life saving for a child?

    Oh Cynthia — I’m going to have to buy the DVD today and watch it again. . .

  7. cynthia rockwell
    July 28th, 2004 | 1:48 pm

    i certainly wouldn’t disagree that i’m a cynic. but you yourself said haneke has done a reversal in this film, so i don’t think you can then argue that he wouldn’t do a reversal by offering relief for the reviewer. and as i’ve said, the man’s words to the boy DO offer relief, and they are helpful and life-saving. my point is that in terms of reality, what he’s actually saying is nonsense. do you think a racecar is going to actually come and save the boy? no, but imagining it DOES save him. imagination is the only hope here, and whether the things we imagine and hope for actually come true is irrelevant. the train might actually come, it might not. but what saves him is fantasizing that it will, regardless of reality. we are arguing the same thing, ultimately. this is a hopeful film. but it says that hope lies only in the imagination. that in a sense, we need to be slightly out of touch with reality to survive reality, because reality is, and always will be, brutal.

  8. Filmbrain
    July 28th, 2004 | 3:53 pm

    Ouch. But right as always.

    Now I’m really depressed. (Heavy drinking is in order for tonight.)

  9. cynthia rockwell
    July 28th, 2004 | 10:33 pm

    aw, don’t be depressed, hope is hope! like the single city-woman in the film who’s always talking about some weird cult of “justs”–she’s the happiest person in the film. and clearly deluded. but happier for it. (and clearly a comment on the effect of organized religion, which DOES bring peace to those willing to believe.) does that make the happiness less real? i don’t think so. happiness is happiness. i don’t think we need ascribe negative value to delusion. i don’t think haneke does.