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Time Of The Wolf (2002)
Writer and director: Michael Haneke

review by Peter Schilling

An unspecified but obviously widespread disaster reduces mainland Europe to a land of nervous refugees and nomadic survivors. Newly widowed Anne (Isabelle Huppert) leads her children, teenage Eva (Ana�s Demoustier) and impressionable young Ben (Lucas Biscombe), through the countryside in search of shelter, food and water. No explanation is given for why Anne's family left their home in the city, but the scene of burning cattle in a deserted village hints at viral epidemic, and Ben's nosebleeds are worryingly ignored. Heading for a train station, hoping to barter for supplies and bribe railwaymen for long-distance travel, Anne finds a bickering community dominated by Koslowski (Oliver Gourmet), and becomes stranded there with no place else to escape to, while the dishevelled population steadily increases and resources dwindle. Tales are related of the messianic Just, and post-holocaust rumours about self-immolating martyrs abound...
   With its episodic storyline, large array of characters receiving little more than cameo roles, and leisurely pace, Time Of The Wolf (aka: Le Temps du Loup) is unfortunately so lacking in genuine entertainment value that it's acutely boring at times. What makes it fascinating are the moral dilemmas, the engaging struggles of the principled against the amoral as civilisation crashes around them (as neatly symbolised by the debate over whether they should derail the next passing non-stop train) and, especially, Eva's sudden maturing as she attempts to dissuade a traumatised young thief from succumbing to the dangers of being an outlaw.
   There are a few moments of exquisite visual poetry to be found here, but they are insufficient to counterbalance the film's doggedly unexciting, and distinctly unromantic, appeal. Central to the filmmaker's artistic licence are the habitually motionless displays of grunginess and despair, as the ordinary people (there are no incongruous Hollywood type heroes) slowly lose hope of salvation, accepting the unchallenged horrors of their fate with a grace that borders on the mythic.
   Artificial Eye's widescreen DVD (cert. 15, released 12 July 2004) includes a making-of documentary, a Cannes featurette, theatrical trailer, and text-only biographies of the director and star cast.
Time of the Wolf

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