Film Comment:Would it be conceivable for you to make a computer-generated film in the manner of Pixar, provided it were possible to render fully realistic, lifelike images of humans?
Michael Haneke: Absolutely. It could be total cinéma d’auteur. But the pleasure and the value of collaborating with others, primarily with the actors, would be gone. The kind of tension that you always look for, between a written part and a real person who inhabits that part with all the additional qualities that are unique to this actor—that element would be gone.
“If I were to explain things myself and offer an interpretation [of my films] then this would automatically reduce the spectator’s ability to find their own answers. My films are offerings, I invite the audience to deal with them, think about them and reflect upon them and, ultimately, to find their own answers. I also think that an author doesn’t always necessarily know what he intends and what the meaning is behind his work. For example, I am always amazed by the many theses and books I read about myself, all of which reveal what I supposedly wanted to express in my films or was supposed to have dealt with. I strongly believe it would be very counterproductive for the audience if I were to answer the questions I am raising in my films, because then no one would have to think about them.”
So music has a fiction in that kind of film, but in most films, music is only present to fill in emotions that are lacking. Most films claim to be realistic and the use of music in them is therefore a lie. In real life we never hear music in our lives unless it’s played on the radio or television or a musician is present. But music is used then to make up for lack of tension that the director hasn’t managed to create. I have nothing against musicals—for example, I love the films of Fred Astaire and the films of Hitchcock, but those aren’t realistic films. The use of music in conventional cinema is usually used or almost always used to make up for what’s lacking in emotion because the director has not done his job properly.
In terms of cinema and filmmaking, there are certainly the unexpected gifts that the actors bestow on you. Film is always a question of compromises with respect to what you originally intended. My father, who was a stage director, told me that you should be happy if you obtain 40% of what you’ve set out to do. When he told me that, I said, “Well, I’m not interested in becoming a director.” I think that limit of 40% is a bit of an exaggeration, but if you get 70% of what you were looking for, then you can be happy. Usually, when making a film, the surprises are negative surprises. You don’t get what you wanted or what you hoped for. The only nice surprises are those that are offered to you by actors when they offer you these gifts, as I mentioned before, when they are better and give you more than what you had originally conceived. That doesn’t happen every day on set, but if it happens a couple of times in the course of making a film, you can consider yourself very lucky.