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
I tracked this one down after being impressed with Haneke's "Funny Games," and while the two films could not be farther apart in intent, both reveal a competent filmmaker of enigmatic yet fascinating films. It seems in the three years between the two films, Haneke has replaced his antagonistic/didactic antics in favor of a more personal, contemplative study of how simple actions in today's diverse culture can have far-reaching effects. "Code Unknown" is as involving visually as it is cerebrally. Apart from a few montages (comprised of photos taken by one of the film's many peripheral characters), almost every scene is composed in one long, carefully orchestrated shot. Without the distractive tendencies of editing, the viewer is promptly absorbed into each vignette, each of which is loosely related to the others by the film's first scenario. Throughout the film, complex social issues such as xenophobia, vagrancy, and familial strife are explored; however the film's effectiveness lies in its ability to portray the sense of homelessness often described as an inevitability of today's consumerist, globalist culture. Which is not to say that the film succeeds indefinitely in its grand scope. At times, the scenes seem either pointless, or pointlessly drawn out. It occasionally seems Haneke is overreaching in breadth: framing the film with deaf children signing seems somewhat pretentious, but can be forgiven when the rest of the film's minimalist formality is taken into consideration. However, an interesting analysis of the semiotics of "Code Unknown" could probably be thought out (the two meta-films, the deaf kids, the title), but that would require more than one viewing, and more tenacity than I'm sure most viewers are willing to give. Still, quite a visually stunning and at times intense film, slightly marred only by the same quality that makes it worthwhile: its refusal to adhere to accepted filmic logic.
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