As part of The Hollywood Reporter's Oscar Roundtable series, THR's executive editor Stephen Galloway sat down at the W hotel in Hollywood with a panel of writers that included Michael Haneke and John Krasinski in a conversation that featured a discussion of the fine line between humanizing and sympathizing with certain historical figures.
"If you are presenting an Osama bin Laden or a Hitler, as in the German film Downfall, how much can you humanize that man and how much is there a danger that in humanizing you get people to sympathize?" Galloway asked Haneke.
"I argued with [Downfall producer] Bernd Eichinger about the film. I found it both repulsive and dumb," said Haneke, who wrote and directed this year's Palme d’Or-winning film, Amour. "When you are dealing with a figure of such deep and broad historical context, the question is, who are you humanizing? What are you doing with him?"
Haneke explained that when a movie tries to humanize that type of historical figure, it can create melodrama. "Responsibility entails enabling your audience to be independent and free of manipulation," he said.
"Am I trying to force my opinion on the spectator or, on the contrary, am I taking the spectator seriously and providing him or her with the means of creating or forming their own opinion?" Haneke added.
Krasinski, who wrote and co-stars in this year's Gus Van Sant-directed anti-fracking film Promised Land, was asked to weigh in by Galloway on whether there are some subjects that shouldn't be filmed.
"The point that I was really interested in is the manipulation," Krasinski said. "I think that the idea of manipulating your audience to believe something, or to believe it the way that it wasn't done and trying to portray it as something completely different that didn't really happen I think is incredibly dangerous."
Krasinski reiterated Haneke's comment that there should be the responsibility of asking the audience "'What do you feel about it?' rather than [saying] 'This is what I believe happened, you should all take this as truth.'"
THR's executive editor Stephen Galloway and news editor Matthew Belloni moderated a conversation at Hollywood's W Hotel with Haneke, Krasinski, Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Judd Apatow (This is 40), Chris Terrio (Argo) and David Magee (Life of Pi).