Austrian director Michael Haneke is well known for "shocking" films like Funny Games (which he actually made twice in different languages), but there's no question he also knows a thing or about creating a beautiful image, as can be seen in the gorgeous black and white Oscar-nominee The White Ribbon. One of Haneke's greatest strengths is playing to audience expectations and showing, or not showing, pivotal mounts of his films on screen. In the interview embedded below, he talks about his views on violence in film, the extent to which it can be used, and his thoughts on the ideal film scene.
Michael Haneke - Cinephile Interview Magazine
His views on filmmaking technique are numerous, but certainly one of the more powerful elements of his cinema are what is seen and what is not seen. A great lesson in writing is "show, don't tell," but in this case, it's "imply, don't show." (thanks Gregg) Some of the more powerful moments of any film regardless of genre can be executed through the use of audio and certain visual cues to let the audience imagine what is going on. Rather than giving everything away, letting our imaginations get the best of us as an audience can be far more powerful than seeing everything that is happening in a film.
So as not to spoil any of his films, one of the most well-known uses of this technique happened by accident during The Godfather: Part II. Marlon Brando was supposed to make a cameo in a flashback at the end of the film, but he decided not to show up during the day of shooting. In the scene, they are planning a surprise birthday party for Brando's character Don Corleone, but instead of seeing his arrival (which would have been impossible without Brando), we see Michael Corleone sitting alone at the dinner table as we hear the family celebrate in the other room. This wasn't the way Coppola had originally intended the scene to be, but it plays out far more powerfully as we watch Michael contemplate his future.
Does anyone have any favorite examples from other films that use this technique?