29 November 2012 | tomgillespie2002
A hard view, but one that rewards in aesthetics
If, at the start of Time of the Wolf, you are aware of Michael Haneke's 1997 shocker, Funny Games, you may believe that this film will be treading similar grounds. Opening the film, the 2 point 4 children Laurent family arrive at their holiday shack in the wilderness of an undisclosed location. On entering, they are confronted with a man holding a shotgun towards them (his own family peering from behind him). After demanding that they hand over any goods they have, he shoots the father (Daniel Duval) dead. However, unlike the familial hostages of Funny Games, the remaining Laurent's make their way to a local for help, and the audience is startled by the matriarch, Anne's (Isabelle Huppert), admission that they had buried the father. We are certainly not in the regular world; this place is different, a point that is further exacerbated when Anne is asked if she is aware of what is going on.
Time of the Wolf is unfamiliar territory concerning its central concept of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Whilst the catalyst for this disaster (?) is never revealed, there is no indication of the generic science fiction tropes of disaster. No zombie/alien, or natural catastrophe's are highlighted. The ambiguity of the nature of the devastation creates a tension that is completely absent from the ordinary, explicit films of this nature. As the family trudge their way through the countryside, they cross the distinct furnaces of bonfires, sometimes the only light source in the darkness - at one time the legs of burning cow carcasses protrude from a fire. Their final stop, a building inhabited by "survivors" waiting for a train that may never arrive.
Perhaps Time of the Wolf states more about the consumer society we live in today. The shackles of consumption, and the artefacts of the modern world become useless in this context. Jewels and watches are pointless commodities, whilst lighters, water and clothing are worthy of exchange. Maybe the apocalypse is the result of dwindling resources, a reality that Earth will have to face in the future (perhaps the near), where agriculture, manufacture and natural fuel have all but disappeared. With this lack of resources, comes the desperation of the people, bringing out the worst in humanity. The strong male figures take control, whilst women are often reduced to trading in sex, and are largely marginalised in the fold. Our natural affinity as pack animals falls apart, and xenophobia erupts, targeting anything that might break the monotony and fraught situation.
With a distilled colour pallet, often only lit with fire, and the bleak wilderness of fog, Haneke creates a realistic world, heaving with pain and anxiety. His precise camera movements and compositions frame the disaster as beauty. Time of the Wolf would probably not suit the regular sci-fi frequenter of post-apocalypse, it does not present itself with the same signifiers and does not portray the Hollywood hero or saviour, and it absolutely does not offer the resolution that most would need to be satisfied with. This is the hopelessness of humanity in all of its desperation, with the modern luxuries obliterated, and reduced by the lack of necessities. But with this bleakness comes horror, and the complexities of humanity. It is a hard view, but one that rewards in aesthetics, and the confluence of characters.