Interrogating the Obscene: Extremism and Michael Haneke

Lisa Coulthard

in The New Extremism in Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641604
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651221 | DOI:
Interrogating the Obscene: Extremism and Michael Haneke

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This chapter continues the discussion of ethics and spectatorship by reconsidering the role of violence in the films of Michael Haneke, specifically The Piano Teacher (Austria, 2001) and The White Ribbon (Austria, 2009). It focuses on two key scenes addressing rape and abuse: Erika's rape in The Piano Teacher and the doctor's sexual abuse of his fourteen-year-old daughter in The White Ribbon. This focus highlights an essential element in the violence of new extremism and, as this chapter argues, an essential feature of Haneke's critique of violence — sexual abuse and rape. What makes Haneke's films so unsettling for spectators is the way they trouble our certainty as to what we consider violence and what we exclude. The chapter argues that Haneke's films explore and extend the parameters of violence itself in ways that go beyond ideas of excess or the sensational more commonly associated with the films of the new extremism to reveal the ‘obscenity of the everyday’.

Keywords: Michael Haneke; violence; The Piano Teacher; The White Ribbon; rape; sexual abuse; new extremism; obscenity

Chapter.  5728 words. 

Subjects: Film

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