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.
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.
Set in France, Georges is a TV Literary Reviewer and lives in a small yet modern town house with his wife Ann, a publisher and his young son Pierrot. They begin to receive video tapes through the post of their house and family, along side obscure child-like drawings. They visit the police with hope of aid to find the stalker, but as there is no direct threat, they refuse to help. As the tapes become more personal, Georges takes it upon himself to figure out who is putting through his family through such horror. A true Michael Haneke Classic. Written by
This film was the official submission of Austria for the Academy Awards in the 'Best Foreign-Language Film' category, but was disqualified then because it was not "predominantly shot in the official language of the submitting country," but rather in French. The controversy that ensued over that - as well as the virtually simultaneous disqualification of Italy's submission of the Arabic- and Hebrew-language film Private (2004) - prompted the foreign language committee to enact a rule change the following year that made any language acceptable in a foreign language submission - hence Canada's submission of a Hindi-language film in 2007 (Water (2005)) and Australia's of a German-language film in 2012 (Lore (2012)). Any language, that is, except English. See more »
During the tape where Georges pulls up in his car and parks at night the headlights clearly cast a huge distinct shadow of the camera on the wall. See more »
Isn't it lonely, if you can't go out?
Why? Are you less lonely because you can sit in the garden? Do you feel less lonely in the metro than at home? Well then! Anyway, I have my family friend... with remote control. Whenever they annoy me, I just shut them up.
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A conventional psychological thriller, a social polemic, or a serious work of art. To fully realise even one of these is an achievement, but to realise all three in a single piece of cinema is remarkable indeed.
On the most obvious level, Hidden is a thriller which, in traditional European fashion, gets under your skin in spite of long shots when nothing happens (nevertheless, it is not for the squeamish). Also in typical European fashion, it requires a little more concentration and attention span than the average Hollywood offering to interpret and understand.
George (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) are a typical well-to-do Parisienne family. George is a TV chat show host for a literary discussion programme, his wife and young adolescent son are normal and easy to identify with. The acting is such that we see them as real people, almost as if in a documentary.
The couple are watching a video. We don't realise this at first. It's simply a video of the outside of their house, nothing more. Then the tell-tale lines on the screen appear as the video is rewound and the camera pans back. There is nothing threatening about the video except that they do not know who took it - it was just delivered on the doorstep. The exact point from which the video was shot is hard to ascertain.
Further videos arrive - still nothing threatening (the police refuse to do anything), but we can not only sense the couple's mounting panic, we are part of it. Nothing in Haneke's film so far justifies the sense of horror which we share with George and Anne but it is intense and very real. George tries to make connections from the clues so far. He feels extremely threatened. He accuses someone from his childhood. The accused is convincing in his protestations of innocence. In this climate of fear and reprisal things can only get worse.
On a second level, Hidden can be taken as both social comment on the tensions between bourgeois France and the ethnic Algerians that inhabit the poorer areas. France is unable to accept or own up to its guilt in its historic treatment of these large minorities, either in the past or the present. As a dynamic that is almost microcosmic, it reaches out to a wider world of have and have-nots, where those with power refuse to acknowledge faults because there is no-one to make them say sorry. This is conveyed in the film first from the typical settings, from wealthy modern areas to more pitiful suburbs, subtle overlays with background TV programs mentioning Iraq (British involvement, of course, not French), and the symbolic way the characters are presented enabling them to be easily transposed to analogous settings. It is a stark condemnation of how those with power (but also with suppressed guilt and a trigger-happy tendency to make accusations) cause much more damage than is necessary because of such shortcomings.
On the third level, as a work of art, Hidden is much more insidious. Director Haneke uses the camera as a tool between him and the audience in such a way that it is impossible to remain a passive, almost hidden viewer. The type of audience that the film will appeal to (educated, probably affluent) is also the one that will be most unsettled. Haneke is doing much more than telling a story - he is using the power of images to interact with his audience in a way that they are not fully aware of (until later analysis).
Then there is the question of who shot the tapes. If you really enjoyed the film but struggle with the answer (which is turns out to be different depending on whether you view it as a psychological thriller or as a polemic/work-of-art), you can go to the official website (which saves me revealing it!) - at which point you will probably want to watch it again to see the details you missed from inattention.
Hidden is a remarkably accomplished work. It is difficult to watch any scene and think of Binoche as Binoche (or Auteuil as Auteuil) rather than the character being played. In terms of directorial technique it will no doubt be an inspiration to film-makers for years to come. In terms of films that can alter the way we view the world it is first class - all the more so for the fact that its message is indirect (or hidden) rather than displayed ostentatiously and openly. Working out the superficial answer to the puzzle is all the more satisfying after piecing the clues together yourself. Working out the deeper sense, persuades by allowing the viewer to come to an undeniable realisation. Are ytou still paying attention? Don't fall asleep in this movie . . .
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