Michael Haneke is a filmmaker who demands his audience’s attention. Known for examining social issues and extensive use of static long-takes depicting characters suffering, he has been called everything from a genius to a sadist. A new video essay by Elsie Walker, titled “Taking Time to Hear: Accented Rests in Michael Haneke’s Cinema,” argues that the director is the opposite of a sadist.

Instead, he is a filmmaker who cares deeply enough for his characters that he takes the time to sit with them through their anguish, their fear, and their exhaustion. By allowing sound, including silences, to take center stage, Haneke is transferring this burden of compassion to his viewers. What results are contemplative, difficult works such as CachéFunny Games, and Benny’s Video.

Watch the essay below (with a hat tip to The Playlist) as Haneke gets ready to shoot his next film Happy End. One can also see his top 10 films here.

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