history of

After reading Chris Funderburg's series The Whole History of My Life on this website numerous times, I was inspired to write about the films that I too "really really love." I have a lot of favorite movies. Most of those movies have taught me a lot about cinema. But very few of them have actually touched me on a personal level and made me take a step back and rethink or question things about my life.

It's hard to find films that cater to a large, left-handed, architectural-drafting, historically black college-graduating, young black man with diabetes who received a kidney from his uncle. I don't like or relate to most modern films that concern black people. Kidney disease and architecture are seldom explored on the big screen, and there hasn't been an accurate portrayal of a historically black college in over two decades.

But every few years or so I revisit or discover an exceptional film that truly challenges me and forces me to reflect on my own life...

{uncle boonmee}
{the belly of an architect}
{fear x}
{school daze}
{u.s. go home}
{stranger than paradise}

michael haneke, 1989.

~ by marcus pinn ~

Four days ago, at the beginning of the month, Georg started in his new position. It took him a lot to get there. You might remember that when he first started, his new boss didn't like him at all. But now he's made it. He brought new inspiration to the department. So when his boss fell ill with an intestinal problem and was off sick more than at work, Georg was asked to take over the department provisionally. His boss is retiring soon anyway. Georg's appointment as head of department is just a formality now. You have every reason to be proud of your son. Alexander is much better. He went on a cruise to Scandinavia which did him a world of good. He sends his regards. Georg's senior boss Dr. Breitenfels is coming for dinner tonight. This is our way of thanking him for his party two weeks ago where Georg's new position was unofficially confirmed. His boss is a real gourmet, so I'll have to cook something extra special. I'll try your stuffed duck recipe, Mother. Wish me luck.

I have to admit that Michael Haneke is one of those intimidating filmmakers to write about because so many great words have already been written about him. I could never come close to emulating some of the great pieces on his work (have you read about The White Ribbon & Amour on this very site? That’s kind of what I’m talking about). But I felt the urge to write about The Seventh Continent because, full disclosure, I’m kind of depressed these days and it is my opinion that Haneke’s theatrical debut is one of the best cinematic representations of what depression can be and what it can do (one could argue that The Seveneth Continent is also about desensitization but I'm focusing on the depression angle.) I guess it takes some courage for me to talk about my unhappiness with a bunch of strangers because there is a stigma placed on folks who deal with depression or just feel unhappy.

A few years ago I casually mentioned to one of my supervisors at work that I go to therapy on mondays and from that point on the way she interacted with me changed. It was as if I had leprosy. This is why people keep things bottled up and don’t say anything. They get judged. I can't advocate for therapy enough. It’s often misunderstood in a lot of communities but just look at it as a form of help when you don’t have the answers or feel helpless. When I mention therapy to people I just like to say that I’m trying to figure out life (which is true). In the last couple of years depression has reared it’s ugly head around the corner of my life and I felt the need to seek out help to deal with it. Therapy does take a lot of work. Outside of needing the strength & drive to work on yourself, there’s practical stuff like seeking out the right therapist. I can speak from personal experience that you may not always find the right therapist on the first try. Like any relationship, there has to be some kind of chemistry. I’ve seen four therapists in the last six years and I think I’ve finally found the right match as I’ve been going to the same guy for over two years (I’m obviously not going to name my therapist).

Few films show how depression can hit us in the form of an unexpected wave like The Seventh Continent. The only other movie that comes to mind is Chantal Akerman’s Les Rendezvous D’Anna. An entire separate piece could be done on the connection between Les Rendezvous D’Anna and Chantal Akerman’s personal life. It’s a semi-autobiographical film where Aurore Clement plays a filmmaker traveling around the European festival circuit with her latest film while fighting off what appears to be mild depression or a heavy malaise. Sounds like a chapter or two ripped from the pages of Chantal Akerman’s real life. She’s someone who suffered from depression herself. I don’t want to make a speculative/tabloid-style piece but it was heavily rumored that the death of her mother put her in to a deeper depression. I say deeper because she already had bouts of depression prior to her mother’s death. In her last film, No Home Movie, Akerman makes a quick comment to her mother about how it’s rare that she’s happy these days. It’s said in such a familiar way that it wouldn’t be too out of line to assume she wasn’t always a happy person.

There’s a scene towards the end of Les Rendezvous D’Anna where Aurore Clement’s “Anna” is riding in the back of a taxi and out of nowhere she starts to fight back tears. This scene is masterful because no words are spoken and there’s no music. It’s a quiet ambient moment that feels more realistic than just about anything I can think of. This is that unexpected wave of depression I was talking about. In fact, the only scene that matches this moment is a scene towards the beginning of The Seventh Continent where the uncle’s depression is triggered by a song on the radio and out of nowhere he has a mild crying attack in the middle of a family dinner. This is such a realistic represenation because not only is the depressive triggering so profound & relatable, but the reaction of his family around him is very true. As the uncle breaks down, the rest of the family looks at each other for a cue on what to do. They’re frozen. Often times people don’t know how to “handle” depression around them (refer back to my former coworker’s reaction to me going to therapy).

My unhappiness isn’t severe or crippling. I wake up every day and do what I have to do, I haven’t lost interest in the things I enjoy, I’m social & enjoy the company of my friends, I always have energy, I go to the gym 4-6 times a week and try to keep off the weight that I lost five years ago. I have an overall appreciation for life and I like myself for the most part. But with all that being said, how I feel is a lot stronger than just being “bummed out” or feeling “blah”.

But don’t get me wrong – I have a strong relationship with “blah” in addition to depression (sometimes there is a ven diagram-like crossover with the two feelings). I think that’s why I’m so defensive of recent Terrence Malick films. Take Tree Of Life for example. Like Sean Penn in Tree Of Life, I work in the design world and sometimes find myself wandering through my office aimlessly questioning my existence and everything around me just like him. That’s something very specific that literally no other film has shown before so when you see something so specific to your own personal life on the big screen you grow a personal attachment to it. Now… a lot of times my defense of Malick is all in jest because no matter how much I truly love his recent films (and I really really do), I understand why some folks aren’t in to them. But depending on what side of the bed I wake up on, the non-clever/recycled Malick pile-on hate is kind of stupid sometimes. At this point if you go see one of his recent movies expecting something other than his loose/jazzy style, you have no right to complain. You should have just avoided it. No one forced you to go see Knight Of Cups or Song To Song. You brought the frustration on yourself and only have yourself to blame. If you watch a movie just to hate it then you have some deeper issues with yourself. To me – the feeling of “blah” is a very real thing that I think almost all of us experience. I feel Terrence Malick’s recent films capture what “blah” truly is – unfocused thoughts, cloudy memory, brooding, and just an overall sense of malaise. And if you don’t agree with me that’s fine. I don’t care if you hate the recent cinema of Terrence Malick. Just be clever and/or witty if youre going to criticize or insult him. Quite frankly most jokes about Terrence Malick’s style is just not funny. And I don’t mean not funny in an offensive way. I mean not funny like – the humor in your overly pre-planned Terrence Malick tweet/one-liner just fell flat and doesn’t deserve laughter or even a chuckle.

But these days I’ve moved on from “blah” and landed in the realm of mild/walking depression. For those who are unfamiliar, “walking depression” is the ability to function fine in every day life (and in my case still appreciate & enjoy life) but there are looming feelings of sadness & melancholy that you can't always shake. It’s a little confusing and I’m sure someone with an old-school mentality would brush off the idea of “walking depression” as just being in a funk but it’s a little more than that. Often times these days I’m a combination of frustrated, stuck, disappointed, sad and/or sometimes angry (we’ll be getting in to why through the course of this piece). But I’m still pretty optimistic about some things and look forward to certain aspects of the future.

I’m saying all of this as kind of a long disclaimer because the basic idea of this series is to write about films that have a deep connection to our personal lives outside of simply; “Oh my god I love this movie! It’s soooooo good.” The Seventh Continent deals with suicide. This could be a red flag to some folks who know me and I completely understand. The minute you say you relate to a film that’s rooted in suicide it could cause folks to worry. While I relate to quite a few things in this movie, suicide is absolutely not one of them. I love life too much to even consider that. In fact, the only time the idea of suicide ever comes up is when I take the occasional online depression test and I’m asked if I ever have thoughts of death or suicide (I don’t). Now... I do have semi-frequents thoughts of death but that’s different than taking your life. When you have an organ transplant like I did (refer to part 6 of The Whole History Of My Life) it’s impossible to not think about your mortality from time to time. Kidney transplants don’t last forever when you’re my age (36). So while one of my closest friends in the world (who will remain nameless) said I could have one of his kidneys when the time comes, I’m still going to have to deal with some temporary discomfort down the road.

I realize my situation is nowhere near as bad as someone with heart or pancreas issues (we all have two kidneys and only one of the aforementioned organs). But every once in a while I’m reminded that my comfort/current health is temporary and will probably be disrupted at some point even it’s for a short period of time. That’s actually one of the things that weighs on me. It doesn’t cripple me to the point where I can't function but it isn’t fun to think about oncoming unavoidable disruptions in my health. Like I said, kidney transplants don’t last forever so the older I get the more I think about when my transplanted kidney is going to fail (fyi – things are fine and my health is fine right now so that’s all that matters).

My health concerns are just one issue in a much larger web of personal frustrations. When I say I feel stuck I mean I really feel stuck. I’m kind of stuck in a career where I do enjoy my job on paper but in the real world it is incredibley difficult to do the job that I like. I often find myself wearing multiple hats that have nothing/very little to do with my skillset of design. I didn’t go to college for accounting so I don’t want to have to deal with excel spreadsheets or crunching numbers which I sometimes get caught up in.

This is also the first time in 12 years that I’ve worked at a place where websites are blocked so even on my downtime/lunchtime at work I can't even do little ongoing touch-ups & edits to my site like I used to at previous places of employment. I know that’s an absolute first-world problem but at the same time – creative people need to create. My 9-5 job (architectural drafting) may appear to be creative but it really isn’t. Film analysis is my real outlet at this point.

I also strongly dislike where I live (New York City) and I’m stuck here for the time being because I don’t have the money to move. And I don’t have the money to move because where I live is expensive and can drain your money even when you aren’t loose with your spending. I’m fully aware no one forced me to be in the position I’m in. I understand that I could drop everything I’m doing right now, get on a bus and just “start over” but that’s a bullshit romanticized idea. I have responsibilities. You have no idea how frustrated I get when people hear my issues with work & New York City and go; “well then why don’t you just move?!” Or “why don’t you just quit your job?” like it’s something I can easily do. And to add an extra layer to things – given my post-kidney transplant situation, I need health insurance for life because I need to take anti-rejection medication for life (well… for as long as my transplanted kidney functions inside of me). Just one of my anti-rejection meds costs $1,100 for a one month supply. So imagine that multiplied by seven which is the number of medications I take. Without health insurance through work I’m kind of screwed. So yeah – stuck.

I can't even really talk to a lot of people about my disdain for New York City because everyone blindly loves it here and can't fathom why someone would strongly dislike the so-called greatest city in the world. I find it sad & hilarious when the same people who defend New York City’s “charm” are the same people who are always tired, frustrated & broken because of New York City. Makes no sense to me. I mean think about it – part of the charm of New York City is that it’s rough, grimey & dirty. That’s not charming.

Seriously, why is it that whenever something awesome happens in New York City (the kind of awesome stuff that could only happen in New York City like a great concert or a cool event at a museum) all you hear is; “Only in New York”. But when something shitty happens (the kind of shitty thing that could only happen in New York City like ridiculously overpriced rent or garbage everywhere on the street), all you hear is; “well that could happen anywhere. Don’t put that on New York City!” Fuck that double standard. Modern-day New York City is a terrible place that is only inviting to folks who are well off or believe in the false myth of what it is. I honestly see no reason for anyone to move to New York City unless you have a well/high-paying job. Everything is overpriced & expensive. There are too many people. It’s crowded. And whats worse is that New York City is overcrowded with mostly rude assholes. There are certainly rude assholes everywhere but its heightened when so many flock to the same place. It’s easy to avoid assholes in Atlanta or Miami because there are less people there. Things are more spread out. But you can't really avoid them in New York.

There’s nothing more annoying than when people come to visit and gush about how great New York City is when they’re only visiting for a week (or less). Try living here and experiencing this every day. Are people over the age of 15 still really impressed & amazed at all the blinkly bullshit in midtown Manhattan?

And before you go and get all offended (because we all know no matter how “tough” New Yorkers claim to be, they’re some of the most sensitive crybabies on earth especially when it comes criticism of their precious city), I was born in New York City (Queens to be exact). I’ve lived in New York City for a total of 20 years out of my 36 years of life thus far. So I’m a New Yorker by default and feel I have the right to complain and voice my opinion.

I also don’t want to blame all of my personal problems on a city. That’s crazy. There’s certainly something deeper on my end but living in New York does not help and I have to find a way to get out. I could have moved a while ago but I was in a 6+ year relationship with someone I didn’t really see eye-to-eye with about where to move. But that relationship recently ended so who knows what the future will bring…

Oh and to top things off – my father passed away at the beginning of the year.

It’s easy to attribute my frustrations to grieving over my father’s death but I was already unhappy while he was still alive. But him not being here anymore certainly doesn’t help. I don’t just miss my father simply because we got along and I looked up to him. I miss my father because he could always sense my depression unlike anyone else and was the best and talking me through rough times. I guess you could say I got so used to him being around and knowing how to handle things so well when I was down that I feel lost in his absence.

I am grieving. Lets not brush that aside. And like they say – everyone grieves differently. For me it's kind of avoiding my mother & uncle whenever I can (I still speak to them and see them regularly but it’s still tough for me). I do have lots of cousins, uncles & aunts close by, but for the most part I was used to being around my parents, my uncle & my grandmother. Now that my father & grandmother are no longer here – it feels weird being around my mom and/or uncle. It’s just a reminder that my grandmother & father aren’t around anymore. And I can't even imagine how tough that must be for my mother & uncle considering they both live in the same house now (the same house I'll be moving in to at some point due to my recent break-up). It’s great that they aren’t alone during this tough time but I know the two of them being around each other is just a constant reminder of my father.

I have plenty of people in my life that I can talk to about my problems (friends, my mother, etc.) but at a certain point I don’t want to bother people with my problems because they have their own shit to deal with (this is where therapy comes in handy).

I’m at a point in life where I've become healthily jealous of my friends and what some of them have in life (families, overall happiness, happier careers, etc). And by healthily jealous I mean I obviously want my friends & loved ones to have all that they currently have and more. It’s just I’d like to attain the same level of success & happiness that they have.

I can't stress enough that I love life but at the same time I find myself questioning the meaning of things. Almost everything. The more I do this the more pointless certain things seem (and to counter that - I do feel a stronger appreciation & connection to things I enjoy). You’re probably wondering why I used the particular quote I did to start this piece off. Throughout The Seventh Continent we get these audio interludes/voiceover sequences of the mother (“Anna”) corresponding with her mother-in-law about her family’s day to day life and they couldn’t be more pointless-sounding to me (but I think that’s the point). I encourage you all to watch The Seventh Continent if you haven’t already because I can't convey the flat & uninspired tone in the mother’s voice as she reports to the mother-in-law about the family’s activities. These scenes trigger me because sometimes I’m at work and the conversations I overhear seem so pointless that it hurts. I’m sorry if that sounds mean but it’s true. Small talk can be really agrivating and depressing (especially with coworkers and/or strangers/loose aquantances). A movie like Office Space does a great job at highlighting the humor behind all that but with a few tweaks Office Space could be a very depressing drama.

I remember watching Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America a few years ago and thinking to myself how the office scenes are hilarious but they’re also very depressing. Pointless banter makes me sad sometimes. We don’t always have to talk just to hear our voices. And usually when we do communicate out of desperation (like a lot of people do in office culture) we end up saying stupid shit we don’t even mean. Social media culture is no different. There’s so much redundant bullshit on the internet it’s insane. I know this isn’t a revelation but Jesus Christ...

How many pointless 2,000 word articles do we need about something someone tweeted?

Facebook has become so redundant that I roll my eyes at anti-Donald Trump posts and I fucking hate Donald Trump along with everything he represents and everyone who supports him (really? Is he really orange?! Does he really look like a Cheeto?? Oh boy aren’t you clever with the insults...)

I don’t necessarily like thinking this way either. It’s exhausting. I imagine our protagonists from The Seventh Continent felt a similar exhaustion. What’s sad is that on paper they kind of had it all depending on your perspective. But “having it all” doesn’t necessarily help with the form of mental illness they suffered from.

The Seventh Continent is something I watch at least once a year and every time I do I kind of regret it. I say kind of because it isn’t possible for a movie to completely trigger my depression but this particular movie certainly “helps” the process. Some of you reading this may be wondering why I watch a movie I know will put me in a temporarily dark place. Well, first of all, depression aside – The Seventh Continent is an excellent movie (performances, editing, execution, etc). It’s almost perfect. I like good/great movies. Also, when we’re feeling down we sometimes listen to sad music or look at an old picture that brings up sad memories. It’s the same with movies. I discovered The Seventh Continent in my mid-20’s when I was in a completely different headspace. I knew how depressingly crushing this movie was but I was still young and hadn’t reached that limit of nonsense & disappointment which is where I’m at these days. I was more focused on Haneke’s overall greatness rather than the deeper messages in some of his movies beyond the description on the back of the DVD cases. In my personal experience, The Seventh Continent is often one of those movies that people like to say is “so crushing” or “so depressing” with smirks on their faces when it isn’t really funny (but I know some people have to smile & smirk to deal with discomfort). But not everyone lives the majority of their life set to an alarm clock. Not everyone is dependent on ugly unreliable public transportation. Some people enjoy what they do for a living.

I mean - it’s a good thing to not identify with The Seventh Continent. Depending on my mood, a lot of my day to day transactions feel like scenes from Haneke’s film (waiting in line to pay for something, making a bank transaction, small talk with a random person at the gym, etc).

I don’t like to speculate but I have to think that Michael Haneke suffers from his own form of depression from time to time. He has admitted to feeling depressed when things don’t go right on a movie set. But in his personal life, I think he has to be familiar with depression. I have always felt that there was a bit of self-criticism in his work. The upper class or upper-middle class (of which Haneke is a part of) are usually the victims of violence or some kind of terrorism which, to me, spells out some kind of guilt or self-reflection if not self-hate. The characters in his films are from his world. He has to be conscious that the families in Cache, Funny Games, Benny’s Video & The Seventh Continent are an offshoot of him, his upbringing or people in his universe. And if it isn’t class, its nationality & race. Weather you believe in it or not, the idea of white guilt is still very real to some people and it lives in a few of Haneke’s films. With Haneke I guess it would be considered White European guilt. From Cache to the opening scene in Code Unknown, it’s clear to me that Haneke wants to address Europe’s racial & social skeletons that get tucked away in a closet.

The Seventh Continent, the first part in Michael Haneke's "glaciation trilogy", (Benny's Video & 71 Fragments... being the other two parts) is loosely based on the true story of an upper-middle class Austrian family ("Georg" - the father, "Anna" - the mother, and their young daughter "Eva") who became so overwhelmed & desensitized by modern life that they decided to take their lives. Through the course of the film we get little hints that there are underlying issues concerning unhappiness & mental illness which some people refused to believe even after their death (there’s that weird discomfort/stigma that comes along with depression & mental illness)...

The S. Family was found on January 17, 1989. Subsequent to a request from the wife's worried brother, the door of the apartment was knocked down.
On February 20, the family was buried. In spite of the letter left for the parents, they refused to believe it was a suicide and filed a murder complaint against Parties Unknown.
The police investigation following up on this suspicion was without results.
The matter was filed as an unsolved case.

The title of the movie comes from Georg & Anna's plan to tell everyone they're taking a family vacation to Australia ("The Seventh Continent") when in fact they plan to lock themselves in their home, hide from the world, destroy all of their possessions and kill themselves. This is an intentionally cold & routine movie that’s overflowing with imagery of alarm clocks, cash registers, ambient noises and long continuous shots of characters mindlessly zoning out in front of televisions.

There’s this generic stance that most people take on Haneke’s Funny Games about how it’s him wagging his finger at American movie audiences. While I do agree with that on some level, I also think there’s a bit more to Funny Games. The Seventh Continent may be specific to Austria but I find that it’s also very American in how Haneke shows communication, work, the importance of money, commuting, etc. Commuting can literally take years off of your life. When I describe work life & allotted vacation time to some of my European friends they look at me like I’m crazy. I don’t want anyone to take their lives but I understand how people sometimes feel helpless like Georg & Anna. Long commutes (usually alone) can cause isolation & detachment which can skew our reality and overall outlook on life.

The Seventh Continent planted the seeds for Haneke’s future work. There are strands of DNA from The Seventh Continent in almost every film he’s done since.

Benny’s Video and 71 Fragments... are also based on true stories centered around tragedies. Majid from Cache takes his own life like Georg & Anna, and The Time Of The Wolf has the same bleak outlook on life as The Seventh Continent.

Haneke is often labeled as a heartless crank (and there is some validity to that) but then he makes a film like Amour to remind us that he does have some form of a heart. I know this may be a controversial stance (especially on this site) but to me, Amour is more of a statement than it is a movie. While it may have got him more mainstream attention & success, I know a lot of day one Haneke fans were a bit disappointed with Amour. But I think back to The Seventh Continent and the immediate films that followed. Haneke needed to make Amour to let folks know he has a soul. And just to be clear – it’s fine if the majority of his films don’t have soul or a heart. His films aren’t necessarily supposed to. It isn’t his goal to always try and convey heart.

Thankfully I still have heart. A lot of it. This is all very metta right now because no matter how frustrated & helpless I may be at the moment, I still have outlets and platforms to vent my frustration like my own site or the very site you’re reading right now. I’m thankful that I haven’t lost my love of cinema & film writing/analysis. If I didn’t have that (along with great friends) I honestly don’t know where I’d be right now.

This could just be a mid-life crisis rant but I honestly hope not because I don’t like the idea of 36 being my mid-life. But given my past health issues, not making it past 72 old could very well be a reality.

2017 came with a helluva bookend. I started the year burying my father and I finished with a 6+ year relationship. In between there's was more discomfort than anything else. So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t share your same enthusiasm for 2017. I doubt anyone will celebrate new years eve harder than me this year as it marks the exit of an overall shitty personal year.

~ NOVEMBER 7, 2017 ~