A European family who plan on escaping to Australia, seem caught up in their daily routine, only troubled by minor incidents. However, behind their apparent calm and repetitive existence, they are actually planning something sinister.
The Seventh Continent (German: Der siebente Kontinent) is a 1989 Austrian drama film directed by Michael Haneke. It is Haneke’s debut feature film, reportedly inspired by a true story of an Austrian middle-class family that committed suicide.
The film chronicles the last years of the European family, which consists of Georg, an engineer; his wife Anna, an optician; and their young daughter, Eva. They lead routine urban middle-class lives, with hopes of escaping to Australia to start a new life, but suddenly decide to destroy themselves without any apparent reason. The film was selected as the Austrian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
The film’s title is a reference to Australia, the continent mentioned in the film as the family’s destination. Its image is visualized as an isolated beach and desert, with a mountain range on the left border and pool of water with mysterious waves (which are clearly physically impossible) in between, accompanied by discreet sounds of waves in an ominous tone. Australia is symbolised as the ideal place to escape to for the doomed European family. It appears in the first two parts and as the last image in a series of flashbacks shown before death of Georg.
Michael Haneke said that the film is based on a news article he read about a family who committed suicide in this manner, police discovered that their money was flushed because they found little bits of currency in the pipe. He claimed to have correctly predicted to the producer that audiences would be upset with that scene, and remarked that in today’s society the idea of destroying money is more taboo than parents killing their child and themselves.
The Seventh Continent (1989)
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Birgit Doll, Dieter Berner, Leni Tanzer, Udo Samel, Silvia Fenz, Robert Dietl, Elisabeth Rath, Georges Kern, Georg Friedrich
Screenplay by: Michael Haneke, Johanna Teicht
Production Design by: Rudolf Czettel
Cinematography by: Anton Peschke
Film Editing by: Marie Homolkova
Costume Design by: Anna Georgiades
Art Direction by: Rudolf Czettel
Music by: Alban Berg
Distributed by: Les Films du Paradoxe
Release Date: March 26, 1990