Der siebente Kontinent (1989)
Michael Haneke's feature debut is as hard-hitting and abrasive as it is understated and orderly. We follow an ostensibly average Austrian middle-class family through their realization of the meaninglessness of their routine daily life – and their pursuant break-up from it. Haneke narrates with fast-cut, slow-moving close-ups of everyday trivialities and nothingness. The lack of meaningful occurrences and stimuli is what slowly drives the narrative forward in its slow-burning manner. The characters' lack of purpose coincides with Haneke's ultimate purpose, but the road there is equally excruciating for them, him and us. Der siebente Kontinent is so bleak and unrewarding that some viewers may not be willing to go along with it. But that doesn't mean this isn't an artistically quite fulfilled and oddly beautiful piece of work. Arguably based on a true story, Der siebente Kontinent was a stepping-stone for Haneke's future (and generally more engaging) successes, such as Funny Games, Caché, and Das Weisse Band.