71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (Haneke, 1994)

Interlocking stories of chance and coincidence feel dated and contrived by now, but Michael Haneke backs this structure with a deep concern for detachment, a theme worth discussing in our computer/Internet driven age. 71 Fragments jumps back an forth between multiple narrative storylines and seemingly real life news coverage of breaking international stories. The plot revolves around people detached from national identity, family, institutons, and sanity. They are all very different in terms of living situation and age, but all share a distinct malaise towards modern day existence.

Whether it’s the barriers of language, technology, or ideologies, these people appear emotionally on the fringe. But only one acts out, and the violence is sudden and without easy explanation. Haneke’s still camera charts these characters’ attempts to live and develop in a world engulfed by media, almost every scene containing a television, radio, music, or computer in seemless discourse with the living environment. We soak in information at an alarming rate, complicating issues of identity.

When finally left with only silence in our surroundings, Haneke sees a modern need to break apart, complicate, and manuever through a more familiar world of technology. His editing style dictates this apporach, cutting off in the middle of sentences, interrupting moments of solitude, playing with time to disrupt train of thought. A step up from the benign and blunt Benny’s Video, 71 Fragments is more interested in character, or the loss of character/control in our ever evolving attempt to put a number, price tag, and web address on every square inch of the planet’s physical and mental frontier.

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