What Roman Polanski does for appartment living Michael Haneke does for family life. He explores the voids, horrors and crimes experienced by seemingly respectable people. Like Mike Leigh, he has an acute sense of alienation, human coldness and fragility.
Work environments are restrictive and frustrating, family relationships can break down, it can be hard to accept truths about one's life, and even harder to do something about them. His characters tend to lack courage and vitality. Television news is omnipresent in these films. Reports of massacres and horrors in 90s Yugoslavia or turbulent Russia emphasise the our global connections and narrative, but underscore our isolation and indifference as well.
Haneke can be infuriatingly tedious. Scenes go on far too long. He films very banal things, like driving along a dual carriageway or sitting on the loo. At the same time he is a brilliant storyteller.
I like Haneke because I don't sympathise with his characters. His subjects are familiar to me, depressing jobs, unhappy families, boredom and frustration. Yet it is possible to overcome these things in life. Haneke's work is a good example. He spends his life creating challenging and disturbing films which you don't forget.