Haneke’s first film and it sets up his now patented style and thematics right away; middle class worry, anger, monotony, and finally devastating tragedy. The long takes, tight framing, and no non-diagetic music all play a role, but with less psychological impact as some if his later films, namely Funny Games and Time of the Wolf.
Georg, Anna, and Evi are a seemingly happy family and Haneke shows us little to debunk this notion. Until the family reaches a decision (we don’t see this scene of course) to reject modern civilization. Their distress has been riding under the surface, them suffering, the viewer fruitlessly wondering why. The actions following their decison (I won’t divulge what happens) remain distrubing, even if the end result doesn’t have the impact the story deserves.
I found myself wanting to like The Seventh Continent more than I actually did. It’s harrowing at times, especially during the car wash scenes where the family, trapped in the steel frame of their car, watches the perfectly positioned cogs of modern technology wash/clense the sleak exterior around them, the underriding tension and distress almost unbearable.
But The Seventh Continent is extremely frustrating at other points. We never get to know this family as people, and while I believe that to be Haneke’s point (i.e. too far gone, immersed in modern day drudgery to have personalities), it doesn’t make for nearly as interesting picture as his latest film, Cache, which also deals with an apocalypse of sorts within a middle class family. Still, you can see the makings of a master waiting to develop and reveal his true identity.