Happy End, Michael Haneke’s latest movie which opened at the end of 2017, begins with the object – gaze and ends in the same way. The movie depicts the specified problematic in question in a series of scenes:
A) Anne (Isabelle Huppert) has a leading role and is overprotective of her son.
B) A man finds the outlet for his inner wounds through his addiction.
C) A woman is dying while another one is starting a family, having just given birth.
D) A woman behind her computer screen expresses her pain at not finding a man, a lack that confirms that there is no sexual relation.
E) Someone waits patiently to meet the woman with whom he is sexually related.
An elderly man (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the dominant paternal figure, hides secrets which he will confide later on. He is the one who cuts into a dispute calmly. The major role in the film is that of a thirteen-year old traumatised girl (Eve) who craves love and is deprived of it. Eve nevertheless becomes a specialist at exploring, observing, learning. She wants to be fully aware of where she stands and is looking for the truth. Between the elderly man and Eve, there will be a true discussion. As if one were analyzing the other. Truths which haven’t been articulated before come to the surface with symbolic references. They boil down to the fact that someone “trembles” ahead of the Real while in parallel the death drive is present on both sides. Discussions are all meretricious (semblants). They all pretend while everyone is wearing a mask.
Our era is lucidly illustrated in Michael Haneke’s film. Events run before us, life flows swiftly. The elderly father leaves; we never learn how, when and who found him. An engagement becomes known when the servant offers sincere “Congratulations”. Anne’s son, suddenly, is found to be living alone in a house. The apartment of Eve’s father is rented, but we are given no clue of this beforehand. Unexpectedly, there is a scene where Eve’s father shows the rooms of the house to a prospective tenant, preferring to be informed about the comfort of the house by little Eve. A party is thrown in honour of the father’s family. All the people involved are present for the first time. The end lets the audience conclude according to their own fantasy and desire. The shots are close-ups only when a detail deserves our attention. As Michael Haneke stated to a Greek journalist : “When you are a dramatist, you are obliged to let things open to interpretation. I like asking questions. Answering them would be boring…”¹
Thus Lacan’s statement that “the artist always precedes the analyst”² is reasserted. Little Eve with her mobile camera in her hand, alludes to photography and to the fact that – as Ronald Barthes states – “in Photography I can never deny that the thing has been there. There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past”³. It is “the fragment of the present which… entirely disrupts time”⁴. At this stage, because this scene has overwhelmed the little girl, time has frozen for her, a scene which later will remind her of her past in her own present, since it will have been recorded in her own camera. This time will later have become past. She will be probably be marked by the trauma of this scene. The present becomes past when she relives this scene by the switching of the images, and the present becomes past with the flashback of the memory and this scene. A metonymic action appearing each time we encounter the memory inside the recorded image. It is a scene of provoking death. Jouissance which entails death is a sign which always absorbs her attention. Here, we can notice the jouissance of the object – gaze. When Eve captures the scene, her aunt, while running to save her elderly father, turns back to look at the camera and thus the subject behind it who is integrated into the scene. “The Lacanian gaze is the one which involves us as beings who are seen in the sight of the world”⁵. The gaze of the little girl, by means of the unexpected taking place, is the “becoming spot the Subject”⁶. Eve has become herself the object-gaze of her aunt. She has become the spot of the scene, the sign of attention of the Subject – aunt. Eve herself sees the Other and is simultaneously seen by the Other. She has entered into the scene, she herself is worth being seen and she causes it, with some time having slipped by and some other following. Haneke presents us this allurement by the gaze of the Subject which is located in the Other’s gaze.
² “Lacan will not apply psychoanalysis to art, nor to the artist. But he will apply art to psychoanalysis, positing that since the artist precedes the psychologist, his/her art should advance psychoanalytic theory”. As mentioned in Symptom 14: http://lacan.com/symptom14/art-after.html by Francois Regnault, footnote (14): Lacan, J., “Homage to Marguerite Duras, on Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein,” in Duras by Duras, San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1987.
³ Ronald Barthes – “Camera Lucida”, pg. 76, for more: https://monoskop.org/images/c/c5/Barthes_Roland_Camera_Lucida_Reflections_on_Photography.pdf
⁴ PSYCHOANALYSIS – ISSUE 7, pg. 212, E. Cadava, Spring 2011, Notes about love and photography – (unofficial translation)
⁵ PSYCHOANALYSIS – ISSUE 7, pg. 24, J – A Miller, Spring 2011, Lacanian theory of the visual scope, the gaze – (unofficial translation)
⁶ Ibid (6), pg. 28