MICHAEL Haneke films are often dense and perplexing but ultimately hard-hitting and thought-provoking.

In Amour the Austrian auteur made a hugely moving story about the sheer power of love tested in tragic circumstances and in his most mainstream feature, Hidden, he created true nail-biting tension in a story about a couple terrorised by a series of surveillance videotapes.

But in Haneke’s latest film – the inpenetrable Happy End – it is so difficult to connect the dots between the disparate plot threads and characters and the subtext is so obscure that most viewers will simply give up.

The director sets his satiric scalpel on two targets here – bourgeois family values isolated from the rest of society and those with wealth and comfort who choose to turn their back on the problems of the world (in this case the current European refugee crisis). But if it was not spelled out in the synopsis you would not really know the story is about the latter if not for one of film’s awkward, crowbarred-in closing scenes.

There is a third strand to Happy End too about mortality and our control – or lack of control – over life and death.

As you might imagine, the title is darkly satirical but the ending features the film’s most powerful scene, lending clarity to at least one theme in Haneke’s muddled piece.

Happy End sees young Eve (Fantine Harduin) sent to live with her estranged father and his relatives in a sprawling mansion.

But Eve has a dark secret that everyone fails to notice because the family are absorbed in social media, their own desires and their outward appearance while Eve’s dad Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) is more concerned with status and keeping his own secrets than reconnecting with his daughter.

A catastrophe regarding the family’s construction business also plays into the story but in a loose, unsatisfying way.

All the elements are here for a great film and it is immaculately directed in Haneke’s signature style, both unsympathetic and clinical. But unfortunately Happy Ending, even for an arthouse flick, is just too obscure.

RATING: 4/10