(LHN) Limited Hangout News talked to Austrian director and screenwriter Michael Haneke about his upcoming, controversial reboot of the Home Alone franchise, and his thoughts on violence, alienation, existential terror, and getting your head stuck in a doggie door.
LHN: You may say things now.
Haneke: Many of my films, as you know, are genre pieces at heart. I was always drawn to the premise of Home Alone as a study of violence through the medium of a slapstick family comedy. Here you have this classic bumbling duo, more archetype than human — petty criminals from a low socio-economic stratum — but as the story unfolds, we find ourselves laughing at their desperation, even cognitive impairment, as a small child not only outwits them but subjects them to an elaborate game of wanton terror and physical torment.
LHN: I’m not sure that’s what Home Alone was about.
Haneke: Right, well, it’s a depiction of class warfare to be sure — but on the other hand, it simply explores how the mind of a young child, one from a “good home”, can reveal this unfathomable cruelty and darkness. The adolescent protagonist becomes the choreographer, as it were, of an increasingly sadistic string of abuses: the “Sticky Bandits” are scalded, shredded with broken glass, set on fire, pierced with nails, beaten in the face with a hot iron, clubbed—
LHN: I get it.
Haneke: …electrocuted, shot in the genitals, stung by a tarantula, and get their heads stuck in a doggie door. This all follows a meticulous plan with its own nightmarish rules and principles, which discard the norms that prevent our entire society from collapsing.
LHN: You are known as a filmmaker who is always jumping off the deep end, always ready to explore new ways of making audiences miserable. Was it difficult to take on something as established as a ‘90s family comedy franchise?
Haneke: Well, I’m adding my own twist to it — a meta-level, a kind of an analysis of the movie within the movie, that forces the spectator to confront their own culpability in the violence they are witnessing. And, of course, in my story the tables are turned: Home Alone — They Broke In Through the Fourth Wall is [EDITOR’S NOTE: Spoiler alert!] pretty much just three and a half hours of the “Sticky Bandits” subjecting little Kevin to sadistic, unmotivated physical and mental torture, eventually forcing him to eat his pet hamster and then burying him alive.
LHN: A lot of people have walked out of the preview screenings in tears and some families are reportedly launching a class-action lawsuit against 20th Century Fox for emotional distress.
Haneke: Right, but here’s the catch: in order to get it — to really get it — you have to see the film in its entirety. You have to sit through all 3.5 hours of it, including the cheese grater scene. It’s only after all this has transpired that the bandits learn how, all along, the real Christmas was the catharsis they achieved along the way.
Haneke: No, not really. Where’s the remote?
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