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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps you will attend Caché to see what all the buzz is about. You will be disappointed. This is not a film to be enjoyed. It is not meant to entertain you. You should at some point in the film be confused, even angered, by what is happening. But you will think about it. A lot. Maybe, you'll start by thinking about the puzzling plot. You'll float a few theories about whodunit, may be even with the caveat, "not that it matters with such unlikeable characters." Then, in your search for answers, you might read comments like the one you're reading right now. You might read a review or two. You probably won't find the answer you're looking for, or maybe you'll find many answers. The point is that in searching for a resolution to complete the narrative, you will have gone over the clues over and over, replaying each scene in your head for meaning. You might even go back and watch the film again in the theatre. Now ask yourself honestly, whether you say you loved the film or hated it, how many films have had this kind of effect on you? It might irritate you that a film seemingly so simple has more effect on your memory than even your favourite films. For this, Caché deserves credit. Because in forcing you to question every frame, it has advanced its themes far more effectively than more traditional narratives. You will never forget that France and Algeria have a dark past. You will never forget how the terror the couple feels tears at the root of what they hold dear, and in doing so changes them into unsympathetic characters. That may not make for two hours of thrills, but it should get people to think about these issues. The real point the movie seems to be making is that in our rush to find clues to complete a narrative, we sometimes lose sight of what's going on. The director here turns us all into sleuths, scanning the foregrounds and backgrounds, by locking off the camera and not guiding us as to what to look at. (In this way, he makes us watch in the same way an autistic person would watch the film.) We're so wrapped up in this alleged mystery that we hardly question the motives of the alleged heroes. Is videotaping a home really terrorizing? After all, people videotape the kids' swim race. Where do these videotapes cross the line? No one is ever threatened or harmed by them. Rather it is the paranoia of the TV host, a person who deals in the editing and manipulation of images for a living, which lead him into following these leads. It is in his nature to mistrust the images. It is in his psyche to follow these tapes and the places they lead him. The farther he follows them, the farther his subconscious burdens him. His mother says she hardly remembers these incidents, but Georges has nightmares about them and constructs grand conspiracy theories about them. Yet when he confronts his childhood nemesis, Majid seems not to know anything of these tapes and is seen crying after Georges leaves. Georges is the one terrorizing him instead of telling him how guilty he feels, which would make him a lot happier. Majid subsequently does something even more shocking. So who's terrorizing whom? As hard as it may be, try to think outside the post-9/11 paradigm and just analyze the facts. The more you do this you will see that Georges is the architect of his own demise. He is not responsible for Majid's horrible actions, but he is responsible for not communicating his guilt with anyone, which might have prevented many of the events.
Michael Haneke the austere Austrian director of such critically
acclaimed films as "Funny Games", "Code Unknown" and "The Piano
Teacher" has created in "Caché" (Hidden) his finest film to date.
Starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche the film is a taut and tense personal thriller, which examines important subjects such as guilt and responsibility in the context of western comfort.
Georges and Anne are a happily married middle class couple who both work in the arts. The balance of their lives is suddenly disturbed when they begin to receive video cassettes seemingly surveying the exterior of their home. Anne is quite dismissive of the tape but immediately Georges believes there is a sinister element to the tape. Soon they receive more tapes and disturbing drawings. As Georges fears for the safety of his family he suddenly has to confront his past and allow his wife to learn the hidden secrets of his past.
Haneke's film plays on one level like a common thriller, but it has much deeper psychological echoes as the "hero" George is revealed not to be quite the upstanding family man his family believed him to be. As his wife struggles to come to terms with the revelations their entire comfortable existence disintegrates.
Haneke is not just interested in creating a thriller however and the auteur expertly dissects George and Annes bourgeois life and implicates them both in the treatment by western culture of the east and the third world.
Acting in the film is terrific. Daniel Auteuil is simply excellent in his role, the actor manages to explore his character enough to make us forget it is a portrayal. Juliette Binoche as his wife initially seems not to be at the center of the film, but the stunning actress manages to place herself at the emotional center of the film as the wife and mother.
Expert supporting roles are provided by Maurice Benichiou, Annie Girardot and Nathalie Richard among others.
"Caché" is at once an intriguing thriller and a wonderful examination of guilt and responsibility in a very modern context.
Michael Haneke's film begins as a clinical, psychological and social
study of a respectable individual in European society. It ends as a
study of a larger contemporary European segment of its population. It
reminds one of the early works of Fassbinderonly Haneke's production
values are more sophisticated. The camera becomes a charactera major
one at that. This reminds the viewer that he is watching cinema at
several junctures and that s/he is part of the
communication/entertainment process. It makes you constantly ponder if
the cinema you are watching is providing truth or lies (or something in
between) 24 frames per second. The fixed-medium range shots that opens
and closes the film indicate the view and mood of the
director--clinical, somewhat distanced and unshaken by the story he
unfolds. We also notice that what we are seeing, might not be what we
think we are seeing. Antonioni did this to us in "Blow up" several
After the screening at the on-going Dubai film festival, I was amused at the director carefully distancing himself from a situation where he could have resolved the issues-he prefers to leave it to the viewer to do so. In a way the entertainment continues after the screening if you choose to reflect on what you saw.
At the obvious level, it is a study of colonial guilt of Europe and race relations. At a deeper level, it probes complacency and bourgeois temperaments of the financially secure classes in society. Escape from reality comes from closing curtains, shutting off the outside world and consuming sleeping tablets. At another level, the film explores the attitudes of three distinct generations towards social relationships.
Haneke uses graphic shocking violent scenes to jolt the audiences when they least expect it. He seems to enjoy the process. His strength is not in his cinema (Kubrick, in comparison, was brilliant at this game). Hanneke's strength lies elsewhereeliciting fascinating performances from his cast. Daniel Auteuil, Julliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou and Annie Girardot were simply fascinating to watch.
The strength of the film lies in the subject that will disturb anyone. Many of us have something in our past that we wish to hide or not discuss. Yet there is a conscience in us that nags us to believe that there was a witness to that wrongdoing--a witness who cannot be buttonholed. It is this psychological fact that makes the film tick, much less its cinematic flourish.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me just give you some maybe provoking thoughts of mine:
Caché certainly is not a film for everyone. We all know it is not a film that is shown in the big multiplex cinemas but only in small ones with "special" audiences. Haneke knows pretty well which type of people will be watching his film. His image of them (us) is one of well-educated people who would never consider themselves to be xenophobic or even racist. He thinks of his audience to consist mainly of politically liberal people, people who probably disagree with the current political tendency to keep strangers out of our "western" countries. People who don't agree with closing the frontiers of Europe, the USA and of Australia to emigrants and even refugees. Moreover, Haneke considers his audience to generally like arts and culture, just like Georges and Anne do. He considers us to be people of vaguely the same class as his protagonists with similar interests.
Caché's message is not about the stalking-plot. It is about just these people, about Georges and Anne, but also about Caché's audience, about us.
Remember that scene early in the film when Georges almost gets into a fight with the guy on a bike? The man was black and Haneke certainly didn't pick a black actor by chance. You won't hear any racist insult or something like that during the film, no, of course not. Georges is not that kind of rude and abusive person. In fact he would never even admit he is every well noticing someone else's colour of skin. But of course he does, he simply can't avoid it (like we all can't). Does the fact his opponent in that scene is black change his behaviour (which is absolutely aggressive)? Georges would deny that by all means, so would we. Can we be sure?
Remember the last scene of the film, taken in front of the main stairs of Pierrot's school? It is shot in a way that will prevent you from getting a good view over what is happening easily. You are suddenly confronted with these stairs and lots of people on them, you just can't give everyone a look here fast, they are just too many. As you will have noticed, after 5 - 10 seconds Wajid's son is showing up, walking over the stairs slowly from the lower right corner of the screen to the upper left one and takes Pierrot down to the bottom of the screen to talk to him for a minute (we can't hear the dialogue of course). At what point did you notice Wajid's son during that sequence? When he started talking to Pierrot? When he walked his way up the stairs? Even earlier, when he entered the screen? If so, why did your eyes pick him among these 20-30 people moving up and down these stairs, leaving and entering the screens? Why him and not any other of the white persons on screen?
Caché is also about our visual perception. Our eyes DO make a difference, no matter what our conscience and our brains are telling them. What Caché taught me is that we just can't escape our eyes and the mechanisms behind them. At least I caught myself during that last scene for what my eyes did.
I guess Haneke knows very well that the kind of social "liberalism" I described above might just be pretended and untrue in many cases. He does not like his protagonist Georges, he definitely doesn't create sympathetic feelings within the audience for him. He's shown as a generally cold and arrogant person. Haneke doesn't like the audience either however. We are hit by many violent cuts and sharp and sudden dark / bright contrasts during the film. Haneke dislikes both Georges and us for the wrong image we have of ourselves. The fact that he does it with his very subtle and minimalistic style instead of adding to the "liberals-bashing" committed by right-wing conservatives these days is raising my respect for the director even more.
Outstanding work, Monsieur Haneke!
The title of this engrossing and disturbing new Haneke film is ironic.
At the end of the film, Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) tells his wife
Anne (Juliette Binoche) that he will be "caché," hidden, and he takes
off his clothes, closes the curtains, and buries himself in bed. It's
afternoon. But he will be exposed, as before. "Caché" is about how you
can't hide. Auteuil, an actor who naturally looks worried and put-upon,
and Binoche, who has a vulnerable and frightened look, play a
privileged couple whose son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) at twelve is a
star swimmer. Georges has a literary TV program (like "Le Bouillon de
la Culture"), which, in France, makes him a star. They have a beautiful
house in an elegant suburb of Paris. (His childhood home, we learn, was
a substantial farm.) Beyond all that are the poor outskirts on the
periphery of the French capital, the slums, the projects, the
"banlieux," with their Arabs and blacks, French society's
underprivileged and mistreated, unemployed and ignored, a population
ready to explode into revolt -- as it very dramatically did in November
Like Haneke's previous "Code Unknown," "Caché" is primarily about alienation and connection. This sounds theoretical and intellectual, but the uncompromising Austrian who now makes his films in French always finds a deep emotional core in his people, in this case a core of the most infinite desperation in both perpetrator and victim. "Code Unknown" focused on chance meetings. "Caché" moves in closer to home, to this family whose peace is shattered and to another family that has never had peace. As the film begins the foreground family begins to receive increasingly menacing videos left on their doorstep that show they are being watched. Georges thinks he knows who it is.
"Caché" blends urban angst with the primal horror of Greek tragedy. What goes around comes around. For what he has explained was his starting point for the film, Haneke elliptically refers within it to the story of hundreds of Algerians the French cast into the Seine in 1961, a story recently unearthed and hitherto largely ignored. Within the film's foreground we discover that as a youth Georges himself betrayed an Algerian playmate in a way that effectively ruined his life. But the events that unfold are full of mystery and foreboding, and the relation between the Algerian, Majid (Maurice Bénichou), and Georges' current terror and disquiet largely remains uncertain. Is this a thriller? Maybe: it has a thriller's progressive unease, the suspense and pulse -- up to the end, anyway -- of a good whodunit. But Haneke, a great director in fine form here, has produced something as intellectually challenging as it is emotionally troubling. He operates without the help of surging background music, jump cuts, or snappy chases. And as the final credits roll, the closing long shot (upon which we are again voyeurs, as when the film began), shows us that nothing is resolved. A highly original artist, Haneke continues to explore.
Seen during its Paris run in October 2005. Shown first in the US at the New York and Chicago Film Festivals in October 2005. Opening in NYC and LA (US release title "Hidden") December 2005, limited US release January 2006. This is a highly visual film and should be seen if possible on a big screen.
"Caché (Hidden)" uses the visual power of film to create an escalating
examination of contemporary paranoia and personal global responsibility
the way Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film "The Conversation" did with
sound and fictional criminals.
Writer/director Michael Haneke plays visual tricks on the audience as voyeurs from the opening shot, much as he did with "Code Inconnu," as he coyly plays with technology, building on the pervasive surveillance potential of our times.
The comfortable upper middle class life of married intellectuals Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche is more and more disrupted by spooky video and drawings from some kind of stalker. With a bit heavy-handed constant background TV news coverage about terrorism and other violence in the MidEast, as well as too much irony that Auteuil works on TV (evidently in yet another book discussion show like the central narcissist in "Look At Me (Comme une image)"), race is quickly introduced as a flash point in contemporary Paris from a brief street confrontation and reinforced with Auteuil's flashback dreams of his youth.
While the political angles are obvious, the Hitchcockian tension is very effectively built up (though not narratively resolved even as some secrets are revealed that lead to other inscrutabilities), not just as we see Auteuil repeatedly lie and Binoche practically disintegrate from nerves, but through sudden violence.
While we never understand who all is lying and who isn't, the film further plays on the truth that visual images don't in fact communicate the reality of a situation and can be misleading about relationships, particularly once paranoia has destroyed trust. The film also raises the question if people change their behavior if they know they are being watched and that you can't really hide from your past. Cynically, but perhaps honestly as opposed to in "Crash," here there is no easy resolution of acceptance of guilt and responsibility in personal lives any more than there is in the legacy of colonialism and racism.
Not only is the past never dead, but the film keeps repeating issues of not just am I my brother's keeper, but the sins of the father are revisited on the sons, such that it's important to keep watching even as the credits start to appear at the end (there was much shouting when some folks got up to leave too soon, blocking cryptic clues to those behind them).
The subtitles are very poorly done, with many scenes having them white on white, instead of the much easier to read yellow.
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 . . .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before i get started, I'm not a divvy or someone that only likes
mainstream blockbusters, I'm quite the opposite.
But Hidden is one of the most boring, over rated films I have seen. I am usually a fan of films made up of one take scenes, and where long drawn out shots that emphasise the characters are commonplace. However, there's something about Hidden that frustrates - a lot - I felt cheated by the film. What many comments seem to agree on is that Hidden has the viewer riveted - but this is quite a flowery term for what I went through - I felt I had to sit through this hour and fifty minutes of frankly downright shockingly soul destroying, sorry excuse of a film for the simple fact it may actually have AN ENDING.
I don't think anyone has managed to take such a scary and exciting idea and turn it so very well into garbage. (with the exception of Alien vs. Predator and Hole in My Heart) This does not have the same appeal of films like the similarly slow paced Radio On (superb soundtrack and its British charm), or Irreversible (shocking and important) or Last Days (because of its visual excellence and enchanting performances) because: a) its visuals are not at all stunning - my mum could have set a shot up like Haneke's dull shots, b)it is two hours of middle class domestic self obsessed faff, made by a director who obviously has some issues with refugees (and being entertaining) which he should address (and not inflict on me by making this film), c)it fools you into thinking it has a story which at some point will end, not give up.
d)the one thing it has to say about society is that they middle class people might ignore a news report WHEN THEIR SON HAS GONE MISSING.
The film is not even redeemed by its random inserts of gore or axe wielding children, because they are frankly only shocking due to the rest of the film being so static.
Genre breaking? No - this isn't a thriller by any stretch of the imagination. Thrillers are thrilling - or at the least moderately entertaining.
Depressing, thankless, boring, frustrating, disappointing, pretentious and over-hyped, the only thing good about the film is that hopefully i will never see anything else like it.
If you've just seen "Cachê" and are still (understandably) in shock,
not knowing whether you really liked it or not, let me ask you a few
questions. Now, when was the last time a film:
a) had you glued to your seat as in "Caché", your eyes and neurones required to work in full gear from beginning to end, making it impossible to erase it out of your mind (instead of the instantly forgettable films you see every week), and actually making a second viewing almost compulsory?
b) posed such complex, multi-layered questions -- socio-political ones (the shameful, violent legacy of past and present imperialist nations, the manipulation of "reality" by the State and the media), existential ones (the racial, class and social prejudices that we all carry and have to fight within ourselves), and more prosaic ones, like trying to solve a complicated thriller? When were they so masterly interwoven?
c) made you aware that your explanation for the movie's most immediate, "practical" question (who's sending the tapes to Georges) will be influenced by your own background and prejudices?
d) had such a controversial and rich ending? (I could think of at least five possible denouements, even considering that I DID see the two boys -- q.v. the multiple theories about the ending in "Caché"'s message boards here in IMDb).
"Caché" is one of the few real masterpieces of the 2000s. The mix of socio-political comment with the thriller genre is not new, of course (you can go back at least to great German silent films by Lang, Murnau, Dieterle, Pabst). In 2005 alone, Cronenberg made the half-successful "A History of Violence", Spielberg the underachieved "Munich", Stephen Gaghan the overwrought "Syriana", Paul Haggis the soap-operatic "Crash". But Haneke asks us and gives us much more: he demands our ability to fill in the many important historical and political gaps, messes with our prejudices but respects our intelligence, and knows that a good part of us viewers are bored to death of being spoon-fed with one-digit I.Q. plots in mechanical thrillers inhabited by tired, phony "archetypes" of good x evil characters.
"Caché" is a monumental proof of Haneke's COMPLETE command of his craft. Artistic achievements like this are now SO rare in films that "Caché" feels like a happening -- a work of art that is mind-boggling, hypnotic and physically unnerving, ethically and esthetically disturbing, combining the sense of revelation and discomfort you get with the best political films with the braincells workout you get with the best thrillers.
As I left the theater, three masterpieces immediately came to my mind: Clouzot's "Le Corbeau" (a political statement disguised as a thriller and a probable inspiration for "Caché"), Antonioni's "The Passenger" (ditto, and also for the long, breathtaking, "open-meaning" last shot) and Resnais' "Marienbad" (the seminal film of multi-layered possible interpretations of "reality"). "Caché" stands tall on its own, reaffirming Haneke as one the top-5 working directors of the 2000s. Can't wait for his next film -- but while I do, I'll watch "Caché" one more time, and understand that hiding (Georges hiding his past and his feelings, nations hiding shameful parts of their history, Haneke hiding evidence, explanations and conclusions) can be a form of powerful revelation...and self-revelation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am more than happy to give license to a film maker to tell his story
in his own particular way and I found the question asked by the opening
and the long station camera shots not only acceptable but actually
added to the tension of the film. There was a dramatic dichotomy of a
need to have this story revealed and slow "real life" progress of the
I accept that every storyline that develops does not have to have a conclusion or that the conclusion that is given is one that I have to agree with but to grant license to this particular style of story telling and then for it to not tell the story but to leave it completely open is an exercise in frustration.
The story given, that a late reconnection with an event of your childhood would lead to a middle aged man committing suicide in front of you has no credibility at all.
We are left with the conclusion that the person filming his life was himself. Fine, but what a waste of time. To be held in a state of captive attention for two hours and to then be told that it was just a big joke on the audience is not acceptable.
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