October 24, 2015

Michael Haneke on Salo and violence

“Have you seen Pasolini’s Salò? Forty years ago, that was a key moment in my career as a viewer. Now Salò isn’t much like Funny Games at all. Funny Games is unbearable for its ­relentless cynicism — I don’t actually depict much physical violence. But in Salò, there are people tied up naked on dog leashes, they are force-fed bread stuffed with thumbtacks, blood runs from their mouths while their tormentors are boiling up shit in massive pots to be served up, eaten, and of course they all end up puking. It is unbearable, and Pasolini shows everything. After watching that film I was devastated and unresponsive for several days. Yet Salò was how I realized what you can do in cinema — what the true possibilities of the medium are. That, to me, is still the only film that has ­managed to show violence for what it is. All these action movies” are merely spectacular. They make violence a consumable good. They may be scary, but they’re still a turn-on. Salò won’t turn you on at all — it will turn your stomach. Funny Games was meant as a counterpart to Salò, except that I tried to treat violence in a different way — in the context of a self-reflexive thriller that doesn’t depict physical violence but works through psychological cruelty alone.” From Paris Review, winter 2014