Austrian film director Michael Haneke has criticised the #MeToo movement, comparing the recent surge of accusations to a “witch hunt.”
In an interview with Kurier (via Deadline), the Academy Award winner said there is no question that “any form of rape or coercion is punishable… But this hysterical pre-judgment which is spreading now, I find absolutely disgusting. And I don’t want to know how many of these accusations related to incidents 20 or 30 years ago are primarily statements that have little to do with sexual assault.”
The #MeToo movement was started after dozens of women in Hollywood went public with claims of sexual abuse and assault prevalent within the film industry. The hashtag spread in October 2017 when it was used to demonstrate the widespread sexual harassment throughout the world, not just Hollywood.
Haneke believes the movement has ushered in a “new puritanism colored by a hatred of men.” He continued, “As artists, we’re starting to be fearful since we’re faced with this crusade against any form of eroticism.”
The “Amour” filmmaker recognized that the interview will probably see him labelled as “Haneke, the male chauvinist pig.” But he stood by his statements, saying the recent trend in Hollywood is worrying because of “the blind rage that’s not based on facts and the prejudices that destroy the lives of people whose crime has not been proved in numerous cases.
“People are simply assassinated in the media, ruining lives and careers,” he added.
When asked if the movement could bring about positive change in the industry and wider society, Haneke indicated that the hostility has stifled meaningful debate. “Any shi*storm that even comes out on the forums of serious online news outlets after such ‘revelations’ poisons the social climate,” he said. “And this makes every argument on this very important subject even more difficult. The malignancy that hits you on the internet often stifles you.”
The director, who is currently working on his first TV series, is also concerned that film as an art form is being compromised. He suggested that Nagisa Ôshima’s film “In The Realm Of The Senses” could not be made in this day and age “because the funding institutions would not allow this, anticipating obedience to this terror. Suspected actors are cut out of movies and TV series in order not to lose (audiences). Where are we living? In the new Middle Ages?”
He qualified that “this has nothing to do with the fact that every sexual assault and all violence — whether against women or men — should be condemned and punished. But the witch hunt should be left in the Middle Ages.”