Oscar-winning director Michael Haneke has come out swinging against the worldwide #MeToo movement, slamming it as a witch hunt that is "poisoning the social climate".
Allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against Hollywood power player Harvey Weinstein last year were the catalyst for the movement, which has seen many high profile men and women in the entertainment and media industries come forward and name their alleged sexual abusers.
But Austrian-born director Haneke, 75, who won the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award for his movie Amour, labelled the movement "disgusting".
"I regard this hysteria of rash judgments that is spreading at the moment as absolutely disgusting. People are just being finished off in the media, their lives and careers are being ruined," said Haneke in an interview with Austrian publication Kurier.
"It destroys the lives of people, whose crime has not been proven in many cases. This new man-hating puritanism that comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement worries me," he continued.
"The actors who fall under suspicion in the light of such allegations are often cut out of movies and TV series as the media corporations start scratching their heads over the potential loss of audiences.
"This has nothing to do with the fact that every sexual and every violent assault — both against women and men — should be condemned and punished. But a witch hunt should be left in the Middle Ages.
"Every s**tstorm that breaks out on the internet and in the comment section of serious media outlets after such 'revelations' poisons the social climate. The malignancy of self-styled internet critics makes any debate on the topic all the more difficult."
Haneke's comments have drawn widespread condemnation online:
Let me tell you something #MichaelHaneke, I was a victim of sexual abuse over 20 years ago. Only recently have I been able to talk about it openly. Unless your body was taken AGAINST your will, perhaps you should shut up and listen. #MeToo #BalanceTonPorc https://t.co/beUzA6QBW6
— Leigh (Olivia Pope) (@OliviaResists) February 11, 2018
No, it's not a hatred of men. It's detesting little boys who don't have the class, maturity, or ---apparently--- the good breeding to treat women and girls with RESPECT. #MeToo @Michael_Haneke @MichaelHaneke2 https://t.co/Xrk7JjNxzi
— M Jones (@NoUseForTrump) February 11, 2018
— Mike Phillips (@sacwriter) February 11, 2018
Deeply disappointed in Haneke for these puerile, facile comments. Clean your house, or women WILL sweep you out of the way! Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke slams #MeToo movement https://t.co/9zxQsfQQEj via @NewIndianXpress
— thepoliticalcat sez Trump is "mere allegation." (@thepoliticalcat) February 11, 2018
Michael Haneke, you have to know better than this. Please shut up.
— michelle nelson (@mischkanelson) February 11, 2018
Haneke also expressed concern over the impact the current climate could have on artistic freedom.
"In The Realm of the Senses by Oshima, one of the most profound films ever made on the theme of sexuality, wouldn't get made today because funding institutions wouldn't allow it, they would be in thrall to this terror," he said.
The director, who has made 12 feature-length films including The White Ribbon (2009), is not accused of any misconduct himself.
He announced last month that he would be making his first TV series, entitled Kelvin's Book, an English-language dystopian drama.