The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1163): 71 FRAGMENTS OF A CHRONOLOGY OF CHANCE [Part of Michael Haneke: Trilogy] -- The Bleakest Christmas Movie Ever
By Sean Boelman
Michael Haneke and Christmas movies are not two things that people would generally associate with one another, but one of Haneke’s earliest films, 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, is about as unorthodox of a holiday film as they come. Still, for fans of the director, it’s a unique pick of a festive watch.
The film tells the stories of interconnected groups of people — an undocumented immigrant, a couple looking to adopt a child, a college student, and a lonely old man — culminating in a violent crime on Christmas Eve. If you’re looking for a jolly movie to watch with your family this holiday season, this isn’t it.
If one is familiar with the work of Haneke, they will expect this movie to be about as bleak and unsettling as they come. However, this film is dark — even for him. Basically a hundred straight minutes of straight misery and desperation, 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance is a difficult film to endure, but it asks some interesting questions nonetheless.
The film is perhaps most interesting as an experiment in structure, with the interconnected but seemingly random scenes weaving together in a frustrating yet intriguing way. It’s like a cinematic puzzle, and it takes a ton of effort to unravel, making this a film that few outside of fans of European art cinema will particularly enjoy.
Beyond the segmented structure, Haneke also plays with form in unique and fun ways. For example, some of the fragments throughout the film are structured like news footage, including a few that deal with the Michael Jackson child abuse allegations. It’s full of weird, dense choices, but the appeal of this film is trying to dissect its choices.
71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance comes as part of a box set with The Seventh Continent and Benny’s Video — making up his “glaciation trilogy.” These early films from an auteur who would later come to be regarded as one of the best filmmakers in his genre show the formation of his stylistic and narrative approach.
All three films are presented in wonderful high-definition masters, although it is surprising that they didn’t opt to do a new, higher-definition remaster. The box set also includes several bonus features including brand new interviews, as well as archival interviews and a documentary about Haneke’s career featuring several of the actors who have worked with him over the years.
Haneke already has several films in the Criterion Collection, so it is only fitting that his early work would enter the fold. Although the generally wide availability of the films means that this isn’t a necessity to pick up, it’s a worthy buy when you get the chance at the next Criterion sale.
Michael Haneke: Trilogy is now available via the Criterion Collection.
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