Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance" (1994)

The atmospheric pressure of an environment presses from all sides the subtextual space of a single chronology. The chronology of chance, as Haneke calls it, but with sarcasm. Yes, chance events of a violent nature occur, alongside events of a decidedly nonviolent nature. But the mystery of a violent event ("A young student shoots and kills a group of people at a bank. No motive has been given.") resolves itself, or at least, produces a chronology, if we pay attention to the nonviolence of events. For instance, the news. The television. The television which is the primary actor in Haneke's tableaux. Even when it is absent, when it is turned off, it is playing in the background; it is speaking. But television isn't merely the medium, or the event, in question; it is an environment produced in and through its proliferation in all (necessarily postmodern) states. It is simultaneously the radio, the newspaper, the shopping mall, the advertisements you find on the streets while walking or driving your car. It is a way of life, and one which pervades western civilization: a society of the spectacle if you will, in which "spectacle" gradually becomes the absence of the bearable. Haneke selectively chooses to highlight events which occur in nonwestern states, nonwestern countries, that are in fact affected by the political and social malaise of the West. However differentiated and culturally insulated we feel we are from the rest of the world (the world which we access, sometimes unbearably, always helplessly, through media) we are actually deeply embedded in the problems of the Rest of the World, the Marginal, the Peripheral, the Subaltern (which, because we see so much of it on the news, we never outrightly see; suffering is so much in our face that it becomes invisible, an absence that suddenly encroaches on the ordinary.) The problem, Haneke theorizes, is the isolation, which we call, euphemistically, chance. But it is not chance, nor is it fate or fatalism; it is, rather, Environment. The environment of violence which we call the news, which we (along with Haneke) call indifference. And nothing is more violent, nothing is crueler, than indifference.

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