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Watch: Michael Haneke Calls ‘Downfall’ “Repulsive & Dumb” & Explains His Issues With ‘Schindler’s List’

Watch: Michael Haneke Calls 'Downfall' "Repulsive & Dumb" & Explains His Issues With 'Schindler's List'

The Oscar season is in full effect, with all kinds of talent out and about, talking to press, and stumping for their films. And as Joaquin Phoenix has learned, if you’re not careful, fiery comments can come back to haunt you. Michael Haneke recently sat in on a discussion panel at THR with filmmakers and writers Judd Apatow, Mark Boal, David Magee, Chris Terrio and John Krasinski, and dropped some interesting criticisms of two celebrated films: “Downfall” and “Schindler’s List.” 

Asked about the dangers of humanizing someone like Osama Bin Laden or Adolf Hitler on film, Haneke made his position very clear. “First of all I have to say that I argued with [screenwriter] Bernd Eichinger about the film. I found it both repulsive and dumb,” he said. But Haneke’s dismissal is deeply reasoned on a larger philosophical query on how this material should be approached. “…when you’re dealing with a figure of such a deep and broad historical context, the question is, who are you humanizing, what are you doing with him? You’re creating melodrama, you’re trying to reach your spectators, to move your spectators, but what emotions are you calling on?”

“Responsibility entails enabling your audience to remain independent and free of manipulation,” he continued, adding: “The question is how seriously do I take my viewer, to what extent do I provide him with the opportunity of creating his own opinion, [and] confront the historical context on their own?”

But is there any movie that gets the Holocaust right? “For me, the only film about the Holocaust that, for me, is responsible as a filmmaker is Alain Resnais‘ ‘Night and Fog,’ ” he declared.


In a room full of writers taking on historical moments like “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” Haneke is ballsy but also doesn’t pick on their projects in particular. He’s speaking calmly on a broader context and his own thoughts, and they are undeniably fascinating. But why the moderator chooses to throw to John Krasinski to respond afterward is beyond us (though he handled it like a champ).

Watch the discussion below (Haneke’s quotes start around the 8-minute mark) followed by the (NSFW) scene from “Schindler’s List” and “Night and Fog” in full. 

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Because there's nothing at all emotionally manipulative about killing off animals in nearly all of your movies.


So,… he is slaying all the Holocoust films. That's funny because Hollywood love to make films about this.
I don't know why Krasinski and Judd Appatow are in the same room of Haneke. -_-"


everyone, especially krasinkski, needs to shut up and let haneke do the talking. the reason krasinski in particular bugs me is because his movie is obviously the kind of manipulative crap that tells your audience exactly how to feel


Looks like THR had limited time to organize seperately writers and directors, or actors. In that room only Chris Terrio is a purely awesome writer.


Michael Haneke is great. im' pretty sure 'the white ribbon' is the best film of the last 5 years.


I just want Mark Boal to shut up and Haneke to talk. Haneke is awesome.


That was a boring talk. Almost no conversation, just bad questions and long monologues from people with little to say. I love Judd, but he monopolized too much time and said little. It's a shame Haneke was stuck in the writers' ghetto and won't get to engage with the directors


"Michael, is it ok for entertainment to make people feel terrible?"


Please, internet, make a Hitler Reacts to Michael Haneke video.

ben armington

Judging from stuff like the PIANO TEACHER and THE WHITE RIBBON, Haneke doesn't seem above a little audience manipulation himself, although it is enjoyable to watch his severe nature take the air out of the room here. Kind of a missed opportunity not to have Tony Kushner and Quentin Tarantino in on this discussion


wthell Judd Apatow is there???????? he is sooooooo overrated.

El Hanso

Holy crap! Haneke at the THR awards season roundtable? Now that's something I thought would never happen. I am not surprised however that he dislikes "Downfall" and "Schindler's List." And "Night & Fog," for him, really seems like the only logical answer to the question how to do the Holocaust on film if not like those other two films.
I like these roundtables. Will check the full thing out later.

Mark Rappaport

Haneke is such a pseud, keep on producing you manipulative Marxist critical theory trash

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