The Seventh Continent | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Seventh Continent

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Michael Haneke's powerful, provocative, and highly disturbing film is about the collective suicide of a young and seemingly "normal" family (1989). Prompted by Austria's high suicide rate and various news stories, the film's agenda is not immediately apparent; Haneke focuses at first on the family's highly repetitive lifestyle and takes his time establishing the daily patterns of the characters. The roles of television and money in their lives are crucial to what the story is about, but the absence of any obvious reason for the family's ultimate despair is part of what gives this film its devastating impact. Its tact and intelligence, and also its reticence and detachment, make it a shocking and potent statement about our times--to my mind, a work much superior to the two other films in Haneke's trilogy about contemporary violence, Benny's Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. With Birgit Doll, Dieter Berner, Leni Tanzer, and Udo Samel. In German with subtitles. 111 min. Gene Siskel Film Center.

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