Tribeca Film Festival 2013: "Michael H - Profession: Director"


SPOILER WARNING: This article explores themes and events from the documentary Michael H - Profession: Director which will have its international premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Michael Haneke and James Broughton are two filmmakers who are just about as different as two filmmakers can be. Michael Haneke uses his films to explore human suffering and the terrors lurking in the corners of our minds. James Broughton wants everyone to lighten up, get a little high, and have lots of sex. Going into Michael H - Profession: Director and Big Joy, I expected to connect more with Broughton and his philosophy of joy and ecstasy in life than Haneke's harsher reality. Much to my surprise, the method behind Haneke's madness was far more satisfying that Big Joy's shallow pleasures.

Michael H - Profession: Director examines Michael Haneke's filmmaking process and takes a look behind the scenes of some of his best-known films including Cache, Funny Games, and Amour. Big Joy is more of an autobiography of the life of Broughton which mainly focuses on his rise to prominence as a filmmaker/poet and his various love affairs. As a director, Haneke appears single-minded in his artistic vision and expects everyone on his films to work hard and serve that vision. In contrast, Broughton would stick a bed in the middle of a field, roll film, and encourage his cast to have loads of naked fun.


The results of both filmmakers were equal parts entertaining and uncomfortable for me. It was difficult for me to watch scenes from Haneke's Funny Games because the characters are in such immense pain physically and psychologically. Broughton's films were uncomfortable just because there was a lot of nudity. Fans of Broughton's work would probably laugh at my prudish tendencies and tell me that was the point of his work, to open the eyes of the unenlightened and free me from societal norms. “Follow your own weird,” as Broughton put it. Embrace a life of free love, and I will experience big joy.

Herein lies my problem. Haneke's work is often so difficult to watch because it involves people who love seeing the other suffering. The perfect example is Georges and Anne in Amour. Georges watches his wife deteriorate before his eyes, and in a scene featured in the documentary, he tries desperately to convince her to drink some water so she won't die. She spits it back at him, and he slaps her across the face. The anger and sadness in Amour all stems from true love between George and Anne, love conveyed in film. How can one experience suffering without first experiencing love and great joy?

Michael H - Profession: Director side-steps the dilemma of the man behind the work by focusing strictly on Haneke's art and his feelings about it, and I think that decision made it a better documentary. It is a must-see for fans and admirers of Haneke's films, and film students would gain much wisdom from seeing this master at work. His film's might be hard to watch at times, but Michael H - Profession: Director is a much easier watch by comparison.

Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at


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