Michael Haneke (born 23 March 1942) is an Austrian filmmaker and writer best known for his bleak and disturbing style. His films often document problems and failures in modern society. Haneke has worked in television, theatre and cinema. He is also known for raising social issues in his work. Besides working as filmmaker he also teaches directing at the Filmacademy Vienna.
Haneke was born in Munich, Germany, the son of the German actor and director Fritz Haneke and the Austrian actress Beatrix von Degenschild. Haneke was raised in the city Wiener Neustadt. He attended the University of Vienna to study philosophy, psychology and drama after failing to achieve success in his early attempts in acting and music. After graduating, he became a film critic and from 1967 to 1970 he worked as editor and dramaturg at the southwestern German television station Sudwestfunk. He made his debut as a television director in 1974.
Haneke’s feature film debut was 1989’s The Seventh Continent, which served to trace out the violent and bold style that would bloom in later years. Three years later, the controversial Benny’s Video put Haneke’s name on the map. Funny Games in 1997 brought him to a wider audience. A psychological thriller directed and written by Haneke; the plot of the film involves two young men who hold a family hostage and torture them with sadistic games. Haneke made an American shot-for-shot remake of Funny Games in 2007.
Haneke’s greatest success came in 2001 with his most critically successful film, the French The Piano Teacher. It won the prestigious Grand Prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and also won its stars, Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Magimel, the Best Actress and Actor awards. He has worked with Juliette Binoche (Code Unknown in 2000 and Cache in 2005), after she expressed interest in working with him. Haneke frequently worked with real-life couple Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar – thrice each.
His latest film, The White Ribbon, premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The movie is set in 1913 and deals with strange incidents in a small town in Northern Germany, depicting an authoritarian, fascist-like atmosphere, where children are subjected to rigid rules and suffer harsh punishments, and where strange deaths occur. The Cannes jury presided by Isabelle Huppert and including Asia Argento, Hanif Kureishi and Robin Wright Penn awarded Haneke’s film the Palme d’Or for the best feature film. The film also the film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Golden Globe Awards.