Benny’s Video (1993): Directed by Michael Haneke

“Benny’s Video” is the second installment of what is known as Austrian director Michael Haneke’s “emotional glaciation” trilogy, preceded by “The Seventh Continent” in 1989 and followed by “71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance” in 1994.

Written and directed by Haneke, who is a major talent to watch, this chilling feature opens with the amateur footage of a pig being slaughtered with a butcher gun. This unceremonious recording is done by 14-year-old Benny (Arno Frisch), a boy whose preferred mediums of experience are video cameras, action movies, and the surveillance monitors placed in his room.

Accustomed to a trite routine of school activities, daily visits to a local video store, and hours in front of his bedroom TV, Benny finds himself enthralled by his tape of a slaughtered swine. Staying alone in his parents’ apartment, Benny eventually brings home an unknown girl, immediately exposing her to the rapturous videotaping. Then, after revealing that he stole the gun that took the pig’s life, Benny coldly shoots his guest and turns his unwrought curiosity into a slaughter video franchise. “I once saw a TV program about the tricks they use in action films,” says Benny. “It’s all ketchup and plastic.”

Haneke’s emotionally haunting, elegantly shot, postmodern probe of voyeurism, isolation, and alienation, and how they are linked with expressions of anger and violence, is not interested in in-depth characterization, psychological motivation, or justifications of violence, instead offering a lucid and cerebral depiction of human beings deprived of their capacity to empathize with others or even be hurt by them.

Premiering at the 1993 Cannes Film Fest (In Directors Fortnight), the movie won the Fipresci award given by the International Federation of Film Critics.