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Happy End (1967)

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Happy End (1967)

#1

Post by joachimt » March 27th, 2016, 8:10 pm

Film of the Week #117: Happy End (1967)

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Summary:
A dark comedy about a murder and its consequences presented in a backwards manner, where death is actually a rebirth. The film starts with an "execution" of the main protagonist and goes back to explore his previous actions and motivations.

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#13 on 500<400, with 238 checks.
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#13 (+26, #39) Happy End (1967, Oldrich Lipský), 1122.7 points, 21 votes (IMDb)
21 votersShow
Armoreska (#119)
brokenface (#23)
burneyfan (#227)
Ebbywebby (unranked)
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funkybusiness (#60)
Hunziker (#46)
HVM (#58)
klaus78 (#131)
mjf314 (#7)
monclivie (#19)
Muellwind (#17)
Odradek (#4)
ormazd (unranked)
paul281f (#3)
perceval (#456)
rokp (#6)
russa03 (#2)
SanderO (#35)
St. Gloede (#396)
Torgo (#149)
This movie fits the current Eastern Europe Challenge.
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#2

Post by joachimt » March 27th, 2016, 8:15 pm

I thought this was a lot of fun. The narration worked perfectly. Although some jokes were a bit repetitive, I laughed every time. 9/10
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#3

Post by funkybusiness » March 27th, 2016, 8:54 pm

joachimt on Mar 27 2016, 02:15:00 PM wrote:I thought this was a lot of fun. The narration worked perfectly. Although some jokes were a bit repetitive, I laughed every time. 9/10
yeah. nifty idea, well executed. you keep thinking the main gag is going to get old but every so often they throw in something new or see it from a different angle. what's not to like. and yeah I giggled a bunch.

two films of the week in a row that I'd seen beforehand wow! maybe I'll rewatch it.
Last edited by funkybusiness on March 27th, 2016, 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#4

Post by brokenface » March 27th, 2016, 9:04 pm

Count me in as another fan (this one has a lot of fans here I think). Very inventive and fun film.

Other high-concept Czech comedy recs for people who like this one (both also written by Milos Macourek):
Who Wants to Kill Jessie?
Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea
Last edited by brokenface on March 27th, 2016, 9:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#5

Post by mjf314 » March 28th, 2016, 12:56 am

brokenface on Mar 27 2016, 03:04:20 PM wrote:Count me in as another fan (this one has a lot of fans here I think). Very inventive and fun film.

Other high-concept Czech comedy recs for people who like this one (both also written by Milos Macourek):
Who Wants to Kill Jessie?
Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea
I would also recommend Dívka na kosteti and Jak utopit dr. Mrácka aneb Konec vodníku v Cechách by the same writer (and if you're interested in TV then also Arabela). I didn't like Who Wants to Kill Jessie? as much as those (but I'd still recommend it to fans of the writer).

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#6

Post by blocho » March 28th, 2016, 2:51 am

To steal from bank is OK. But to pauperize a hippo is different story.

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#7

Post by jvv » March 31st, 2016, 6:46 pm

Watched it and it is indeed very clever. However, unlike the others who posted, I didn't think it was funny at all. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. :shrug:
Last edited by jvv on March 31st, 2016, 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#8

Post by joachimt » March 31st, 2016, 7:41 pm

jvv on Mar 31 2016, 12:46:45 PM wrote:Watched it and it is indeed very clever. However, unlike the others who posted, I didn't think it was funny at all. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. :shrug:
Watch it again when you're in a happy mood.
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#9

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » March 31st, 2016, 7:46 pm

9-/10

If you have seen the film you will have understood what you just read...

OK, I won’t make this post in reverse order even though that was the initial plan. Since in the film it
is only justified because it works in both directions and I won’t put the effort into my write-up for it to
work both ways, it would be little more than annoying to make my comment mirror the film like this.

‘Happy End’ is a challenge to constantly read in both directions simultaneously, which should make
rewatches worthwhile. Luckily the “actual narrative” (which is what I will call what we know the story
of this man’s real life is, as opposed to how the film presents it, which I will call the “fictional
narrative”), is simple enough and at all times clear so that it isn’t a necessity to try to follow the
dialogues and the plot in reverse order, but it is certainly tempting to do so, and I think one
sometimes wants to see the film in correct chronological order, because even though that would make
it a lesser film, it would make one further appreciate all the planning that must have went into
making it the way it is, for the result looks so effortless. This can be seen with the example of
“Memento” of which a chronologically ordered version exists.


OK, so what we have here is certainly a great premise. And cinematically it was cleverly solved with
the filmmakers doing a very fine job, it would be difficult to argue otherwise. But is it more than just
clever? Well, it’s amusing. So, yes, it is. Why is it amusing? Because the dialogues, which in normal
order drive the plot along but are rather banal, now presented in reverse order, are written in such a
way - line after line - to create amusing conversations. Yes, that’s one reason. And yes, even gestures
often take on an amusingly fitting alternate meaning by reversing cause and effect. But why else does
it cause amusement? It’s because negative things become positive. Things getting worse become
things getting better. And while the middle section of the film is a back and forth between things
going well for our protagonist, and things going bad for him, the beginning and the end both are
things getting gradually better for our protagonist in the fictional narrative.

A cow gets slaughtered and skinned, and a woman gets hacked to pieces on screen, and we all laugh,
because we see both creatures come to life before us, violence is turned into creation. This is what we
witness, but at the same time we are also aware of the actual causality. The reality that is implied in
“Happy End” where things keep getting better and better is that nothing ever gets better. From the
moment we are born until we die everything only gets worse. Everything is falling apart. To live
means to die. Slowly. (If you want to read more on this please see my comment on ‘Irréversible’:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290673/reviews-668 .)

So the philosophy underlying all the fun shenanigans is a very bleak one indeed. Speaking of which,
it is easy to also bring Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal recurrence into this. The man is forced to
relive his life exactly the same way he lived it, even if from a bit of a different “angle” this time. He
builds his own narrative out of the life he already lived, and building a narrative is exactly what
he is doing, because there would be countless narratives to build out of his reversed life, his fictional
narrative is merely the interpretation he chooses. But does he really choose it or is he instead driven
to build this one?

Because if looked at closer his fictional narrative parallels his actual one, creating a sort of circular
movement. The actual narrative, we can gather, is that the man is trapped in
an unloving relationship until he falls in love with another woman and they get married.
Soon he becomes a cuckold husband who kills his wife and her lover, goes to jail for it and gets
executed. Now, in the fictional narrative he gains his freedom, gets to have a wife who is
less interested in him than she is in another man, so he wants to kill him and then kill her, or at least
return to her to her parents, to be with the woman he really loves.

What I find telling in the fictional narrative is that he almost immediately wants to get rid of his wife,
as if what she did to him in the actual narrative still is somewhere in his memory and he
subconsciously hates her for it. Likewise, with his (actual) first wife(?) he has the urge to immediately
skip to the paradise that is childhood. To live a life without worries, and still with all the hope of a
bright future ahead of him. There can only be happiness where there is hope, or you can be happy by
at least being oblivious to the fact that there is no hope. The reason why happiness can exist for our
protagonist at the end of his fictional narrative is because unlike the certain death that awaits each
and every one of us, his fictional narrative doesn't stop at the real end, he just has no memory of
what lies beyond it, no memory of his birth and of his first few years being alive. In the direction of
his fictional narrative there is no death, only oblivion.

This review is best read in reverse order. Warning! Psych, you early April Fool!
Last edited by Perception de Ambiguity on April 4th, 2016, 5:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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#10

Post by Carmel1379 » April 4th, 2016, 12:58 am

Amazing. My fourth new first-time viewing 'favourite' this year.

It's an interesting thought experiment - the goal of the 'soul' (narrator) is to find a "happy end", but instead of looking for it in heaven under God's blessing, nirvana or whatever, and since on Earth, with time running as we know it happiness is impossible, because time destroys everything, the 'soul' tries to create and apply an as adequate as possible story to a "real" corporeal body's life, which is ultimately quite absurd, which is where the comedy comes from. Even when running time backwards, inverting everything as he goes along so that up becomes down and down up, the struggles persist - the wife he tries to get rid of is always coming back. It's not easy, but by leaping he finds his happiness in blissful childhood. Happy end. That's just irony from the filmmakers's part, it's really convenient for the 'soul' to simply end its story there, soon enough he would "die" by being inserted into his mother' womb and essentially disintegrating. It's clear to the viewer that the 'soul' is just bulllshitting itself to find happiness, as humans do. It's an inventive black comedy to the extreme and I find it overall quite depressing, as good films should be.

Anyway, I agree with everything PdA wrote, great comments.
Last edited by Carmel1379 on April 4th, 2016, 1:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#11

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » April 4th, 2016, 5:50 am

I like that you call the narrator the soul, and that this soul is actively pursuing happiness, that's a nice way of
reading it. Having no actual control over the goingons his only weapon to achieve his goal is to build a narrative. He can only
explain the goingons in the terms he is familiar with, and as you said, hence the absurdity of his story. E.g.: he seems to skip
parts whenever it is convenient, leaves out events that don't fit into his narrative or that he maybe couldn't make sense of, the
same way that our perception is selective and we only see what we want to see. Maybe a newborn soul - one that hadn't
already lived a life and got accustomed to the laws of physics, of society, etc. - could have made some sense out of this
reversed causality that would have seemed natural, instead of one where the soul is bullshitting himself about what is going on.

In accordance with this reading it makes sense to say that he is also just bullshitting himself about having found the happiness
he pursued by simply ending the story at a point that was convenient to him, like love stories ending with the marriage, "and
they lived happily ever after". Though - and I realized that it probably wasn't clear in my write-up how exactly I interpreted the
ending - I like to think of the last scene as being his first memory. Since he naturally has no memory of his birth, nor of his
first few years alive, he also can't continue his fictional narrative. Although he was alive for four more years or whatever, his
consciousness hadn't developed yet.

But if we take it as being the soul you could have a point too, and maybe there really should be no reason why he couldn't
continue his fictional narrative all the way to his birth (and maybe even further) if he wanted to. And he was bullshitting himself
all the way through it, why would it be any different with the ending?
Last edited by Perception de Ambiguity on April 5th, 2016, 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#12

Post by Carmel1379 » April 5th, 2016, 6:46 pm

Perception de Ambiguity on Apr 3 2016, 11:50:20 PM wrote:Maybe a newborn soul - one that hadn't already lived a life and got accustomed to the laws of physics, of society, etc. - could have made some sense out of this reversed causality that would have seemed natural,
That's what I thought when the film started.
But because he actually knows what he is talking about, and knows some laws, Forms and traditions - the "usual" course of life, maybe instead of being a "newborn soul" or a soul that is bullshitting itself, it's a soul which had lived life in a deranged way, and now needs to reconstruct something. Well, most of his thoughts are crazy, but I think there might be people living somewhere today who are also convinced they receive their wives as a gift from the government, but which needs to be assembled. Which is not to say that such comparisons (like prison=school, priest visiting before execution=person who gives life advice, butchering his wife=the act of "receiving" his wife by the state) aren't curious and aren't means to provoke the viewer to think.
Perception de Ambiguity on Apr 3 2016, 11:50:20 PM wrote:Though - and I realized that it probably wasn't clear in my write-up how exactly I interpreted the ending - I like to think of the last scene as being his first memory. Since he naturally has no memory of his birth, nor of his first few years alive, he also can't continue his fictional narrative. Although he was alive for four more years or whatever, his consciousness hadn't developed yet.
That makes most sense and would in a certain way imply the happy end in the best possible sense, one of "eternal bliss" - "they lived happily ever after" after all, in a synthesis of innocent childhood and old age, supposedly the two times of being free, open to a world of possibilities, traveling and exploring.
Perception de Ambiguity on Apr 3 2016, 11:50:20 PM wrote:But if we take it as being the soul you could have a point too, and maybe there really should be no reason why he couldn't continue his fictional narrative all the way to his birth (and maybe even further) if he wanted to. And he was bullshitting himself all the way through it, why would it be any different with the ending?
Sure, and I wouldn't have minded seeing another 3 hour of this :)
A hypothetical narrative of him surviving the 'crippling' and birth, passing to an existence even further, beyond the life we're being shown, would turn this one much more metaphysical, in a way confirming the ''soul'-reading' and being akin to the ending of 'Enter the Void' (what? another Noé film?). Beliefs about an afterlife are evoked even more, and talking about the eternal recurrence thought experiment in this sense would make a lot of sense too.
But eventually, given the constrained runtime of the film, the ending as shown in the film is probably the better one, and like I said, the much more drastic disorienting "leaps" to arrive there are one of the things that support the "bullshitting" interpretation.

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#13

Post by AdamH » July 19th, 2020, 10:39 am

Just watched Happy End (trying to work through 500<400).

I thought it was a great concept and, initially, I did really enjoy it. Over the course of the film, however, I thought it became a bit more tedious. I struggle generally with comedies and I think I'd have liked this concept more in a drama. I didn't find it funny at all but I did find various parts of it to be clever and interesting. Overall, I'd probably give it around a 6 or 7/10. I'd probably have preferred this one as a short film as I think it got a little repetitive and didn't quite do enough with the great concept to keep me entertained.

On a side note, the subtitles were really not very good (I tried three different versions) and that didn't help my overall enjoyment and distracted from the film quite a bit unfortunately.

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