A 14-year-old video enthusiast is so caught up in film fantasy that he can no longer relate to the real world, to such an extent that he commits murder and records an on-camera confession for his parents.
A European family who plan on escaping to Australia, seem caught up in their daily routine, only troubled by minor incidents. However, behind their apparent calm and repetitive existence, they are actually planning something sinister.
Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
Jean, a farm lad, wants to escape his silent father; he runs to Paris to his older brother, Georges, who's away covering the war in Kosovo. Angry, he throws a bag of half-eaten pastry into a beggar's lap. Amadou, a young Franco-African, berates him. The police arrive, arrest Amadou and deport the beggar. Georges's girlfriend Anne is upset; it colors her relationship with Georges when he returns from the war. Separate lives intersect for the one moment, around the pastry bag, and all are altered. We follow each as repercussions of the incident play out. Deaf children bookend the film pantomiming words, feelings, and situations: what they are expressing? Written by
"Code Inconnu" is an utterly original, even revolutionary piece from the Austrian director who continually refuses to compromise and pander to an audience.
Many of the reviews on this site focus on the coherence of the film and suggest that the film lacks meaning or narrative, or even that the film is a failure because it is not easily comprehended. This is untrue and deeply unfair.
"Code Inconnu" is not an immediate film. Indeed it may take several viewings to really come to grips with the meaning of the film - certainly there is not a single definitive meaning. For many film viewers when the basic linear narrative is remote. Again this adds to the view that the meaning of this obscured film is pointless. However this is more a reflection of the viewer and of audience expectation than of this film.
In a series of free standing vignettes Haneke has fashioned a moral conundrum without an answer. Much like in life itself. But rather than searching for meaning or answers Haneke is daring us to confront the questions themselves. The themes here are obviously about racism and reality, but also conscience and the consequence of our actions. By linking his separate characters initially Haneke points out that we are tenuously linked to people by uncontrollable events. By setting his film in Parisian streets, Hanekes film becomes recognizable of all our lives.
The central performance from Binoche is equally ambiguous, again this adds to the strength of the piece, but also the difficulty inherent in it.
The best way to view this film is as a series of questions which have no easy answer. The code is indeed unknown. By viewing each episode as a single moral conundrum the film takes on a very interesting and worthwhile dimension.
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