Anna and Georg are neither young nor beautiful. But, following a brief work encounter, they fall passionately in love. They are unable to conceive of their love as something forbidden or immoral, nor can they understand the suffering they are causing their respective partners. After terrible fights - Anna with her lesbian companion Kitty; and Georg with his wife Eva and his sister Sigrid - the two move in together. But neither Anna nor Georg are able to escape their feelings of responsibility and guilt. At the end Georg finds himself standing in front of a movie theater that is showing Woody Allen's film Annie Hall.
"To me, Variation is a comedy (...) These people feel so well in their state of eternal threat that nothing bad can happen to them (...) I think that even the majority of Cassavetes' films are, to some degree or another, clandestine comedies" (M. Haneke).
Michael Haneke was born in Munich on March 23, 1942, the son of Austrian actress Beatrix von Degenschild and the director and actor Fritz Haneke, from Dusseldorf. Michael spent his youth in Wiener Neustadt (Lower Austria), and graduated from the local high school in 1962. When his plan to study acting at the Reinhardt-Seminar of Vienna fell through, as did his plan to become a pianist, Michael enrolled in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Vienna. He tried his hand at writing (a short story intitled Persephone) and, besides studying, he worked as a movie and literary critic.
From 1967 to 1971 he worked as editor and television playwrighter for the tv station Südwestfunk (SWF) of Baden-Baden. His first screenplay, Wochenende, which was never produced, dates from this era.
The early 1970's saw him debut as a theatrical director at the Stadttheater of Baden-Baden with Ganze Tage in den Bäumen (Des Jours entieres dans les arbres), by Marguerite Duras. Other theatrical productions followed in Darmstadt, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Vienna. Haneke has produced pieces by Strindberg, Goethe, Hebbel, Enquist, Bruckner, Kleist and others.
His first tv movie dates from 1974: ...und was kommt danach? (After Liverpool), from a text by James Saunders. Others soon followed: Sperrmüll (1976), Drei Wege zum See (1976, by Ingeborg Bachmann), Lemminge (1979, in two parts), Variation (1983), Wer war Edgar Allan? (1984, by Peter Rosei) and Fräulein - ein deutsches Melodram (1986).
For Schmutz (1986), the actor Paulus Manker debuted as director and Haneke oversaw the dialog. During the mid-1980's, he also wrote the screenplay Der Kopf des Mohren, which was produced in 1995, under Manker's direction.
In 1989 his first film for the big screen, Der siebente Kontinent was invited to Cannes. The film was invited to many other film festivals, received numerous awards (for example at Locarno) and in 1990 was presented in New York at New Directors / New Films.
In 1990 Haneke wrote the screenplay for a science fiction movie, Wolfszeit, which has yet to be produced, and the script for Die Klavierspielerin, based on the novel by Elfriede Jelinek.
The experimental tv film Nachruf fur einen Mörder (1991) addresses a theme that will be the central point of all his later movies: violence and the media. Benny's Video (1992) and 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (1994) - both presented at the Quinzaine of Cannes - procure the director international fame and win various awards and critics' prizes.
In 1995 Haneke was one of the directors chosen to produce short episodes in Lumière et compagnie, in commemoration of cinema's one hundredth birthday.
Between one film and another, Haneke continues to work for television. His adaptations of the books Die Rebellion (1993, by Joseph Roth) and Das Schloss (1997, by Franz Kafka) are among the best examples of European made-for-tv movies.
In 1997, Haneke participated for the first time at Cannes with Funny Games, which is without a doubt his most problematic and discussed movie on an international level.
Michael Haneke lives in Katzelsdorf, in Lower Austria.
Regista/Director: ...und was kommt danach? (After Liverpool) [... What Happens Afterwards? (After Liverpool) / ... e poi che accade? (Dopo Liverpool), tv, 1974], Sperrmüll (Junkyard Rubbish / Roba vecchia da portare via, tv, 1976), Drei Wege zum See (Three Paths to the Lake / Tre sentieri per il lago, tv, 1976), Lemminge (Arkadien + Verletzungen) [Lemmings (part one: Arcadia; part two: Wounds / Lemming (prima parte: Arcadia, seconda parte: Ferite), tv, 1979], Variation (Variazione, tv, 1983), Wer war Edgar Allan? (Who Was Edgar Allan? / Chi era Edgar Allan?, tv, 1984), Fräulein - ein deutsches Melodram (Fräulein - a German Melodrama / Ragazza - un melodramma tedesco, tv, 1986), Der siebente Kontinent (The Seventh Continent / Il settimo continente, 1989), Nachruf für einen Mörder (Obituary for a Murder / Necrologio per un assassino, tv, 1991), Benny's Video (Il video di Benny, 1992), Die Rebellion (The Rebellion / La ribellione, tv, 1993), 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (71 Fragments of a Chronology of the Case / 71 frammenti di una cronologia del caso, 1994), Lumière et compagnie (ep., 1995), Das Schloß (The Castle / Il castello, tv, 1997), Funny Games (id., 1997).
Sceneggiatore/Screenwriter: Schmutz (Dirt / Sporcizia, 1986) di Paulus Manker, Der Kopf des Mohren (The Moor's Head / La testa del moro, 1995) di Paulus Manker.
Attore/Actor: Charms Zwischenfälle (Charm's Mishaps / I casi di Charms, 1996) di Michael Kreihsl.
Director of photography: Walter Kindler.
Costume designer: Reinhild Paul.
Art director: Roger von Möllendorff.
Sound: Klaus Vogler, Joachim Prokesch.
Music: Egberto Gismonti, Jan Garbarek, Charlie Haden.
Editor: Barbara Herrmann.
Cast and characters: Elfriede Irrall (Anna Beranek), Hilmar Thate (Georg Leuwen), Monika Bleibtreu (Eva Leuwen), Suzanne Geyer (Kitty), Eva Linder (Sigrid).
Production company: Sender Freies Berlin (SFB).