Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Time of the Wolf

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
110 minutes
Limited Release Date
06/25/04
performer
Beatrice Dalle, Isabelle Huppert
director
Michael Haneke
distributor
Palm
genre
Horror

We gave it an A-

The world doesn’t end in the harrowing apocalyptic parable Time of the Wolf, but it does grind to a halt; it doesn’t happen with a bang but with a fog; and it takes place not so much in the future as in an unspecified present undone by a kind of Western European anarchy that’s just this side of fascism. In other words, we’re in the favored territory of Austrian master of anxiety Michael Haneke, who last challenged the unshockable by putting Isabelle Huppert through masochistic finger exercises in ”The Piano Teacher.”

This time Huppert is unmutilated but unprepared as Anne, a mother whose life (husband, kids, sleek automobile, country home nestled in pretty woods) unravels in the first five minutes: The house is occupied by strangers; animals in the field are dead and charred; a kind of psychic plague has settled over the world Anne knows; and for reasons never explained, this turns neighbor against neighbor. There are no zombies out of ”28 Days Later” to alleviate the slow creep of realistic doom in this chilly, tense corker.

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