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Pure Art-house with No Apology
SingleSimonSays15 April 2005
"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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unknown code = no access to any life
dbdumonteil2 June 2005
Paris, in the year 2000. A thoughtless gesture (a scrap of paper thrown in the hands of a beggar) causes a general altercation. As a matter of fact, the Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke goes from this incident to relate bits of various characters' lives. There's among others, Anne (Juliette Binoche), an actress who travels from movie to movie. Her husband, Georges a war photographer whose photos express pain and suffering from the countries he visited. Jean who fled from his father's farm in the north of France to come to Paris. Amadou who works in an institute for deaf and dumb children and Maria, a Romanian woman who has trouble to make ends meet by begging. Like "71 Bits" (1994), Haneke's movie is a patchwork of sequences shot in real time and interrupted with short black screens to have a break and in the same time to think about the sequence shot we have just seen.

Shortly before the incident when Jean wants to go to Anne's flat, the latter tells him the code of her flat: "if you want to enter my flat, the code of my building is B4718". I'm not sure whether it's the right code but the building could epitomize a metaphor of a man's life. Every man's life is similar to a building kept generally by a code. The title of the film is rather easy to understand. The famous "unknown code" is a blocked access to any character's real life. This code is unknown for the strangers who surround him or her and as a consequence they don't known anything of his or her real life. It's this situation that is represented in Haneke's movie.

On the surface, "Unknown Code" seems more breathable than Haneke's previous works and looks like a "Magnolia" (1999) à la Francaise. Michael Haneke juxtaposes different characters'different lives belonging to different social classes. They have apparently nothing in common except maybe that their own lives are kept by this unknown code for the others. However, they are affected by terrible sorrows which paralyze the Western society without this latter realizes it. In this Haneke's opus, there's neither the uppercut of "Benny's video" (1992), nor the icy violence of "Funny Games" (1997) but through an accurate study of these different journeys, a quiet, impressive of rigor making, the director offers a disillusioned and black vision of this society. So, he remains faithful to his favorite topics: the difficulty of communication (Amadou who tries to explain in a clumsy way his anger in front of Jean's unconsidered gesture). The way in which violence has become a feature of everyday life in a society which has become insensible to it (we can remember perfectly the sequence shot when Anne irons, she can hear shrill cries near her. She hesitates then resumes to iron). The omnipresence of racism and the insurmountable barrier of social classes (the scene in the tube is a grievous example). They are serious topics that are generally way off cinema's regular radar. It takes all Haneke's courage to explore them. Something he has relentlessly done since "the Seventh Continent" (1989). So, "Unknown Code" is a logical extension of Haneke's obsessions. To come back to the characters, they feel either humiliated either difficulties to communicate. When it crosses our minds that we live inside this distressing universe, it sends shivers down our spines. Once again Herr Haneke stirred some of the viewers's deep fears.

So, ultimately, "Unknown Code" isn't as accessible as Haneke's other works by its nonexistent linear narration and the seriousness of its theses but I think that it's a winner in Haneke's work. Of course, to watch a movie that breaks narrative conventions and expresses deeply pessimistic things is not for all tastes and that's partly why there'll never be general agreement about the famous Austrian film-maker but at least this movie brings to the light of day, thorny subjects hidden in the obscurity of cinema. It is a worthy movie far better than Hneke's next opus, "the Pianist" (2001) but that's another story...
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A Fascinating Exploration of Communication Across Race, Class, Gender, Ages, Geography and Senses
noralee18 January 2006
"Unknown Code: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages)" is a fascinating exploration of communication, using all the elements of film to create a trompe l'oeil of sight, sound and character interactions.

We see extended vignettes of people tangentially related through an accidental intersection in Paris. In a brief interview on the Sundance Channel, where I viewed the film, writer/director Michael Haneke said he specifically selected Paris because it is one of the few European cities whose multiculturalism is so visible. We see here how it attracts immigrants not only as traditionally from the rural countryside, but now from Eastern Europe and Africa.

Though not as violent as the incidents in "Amores perros", released the same year, or the later "Crash," the unsettling confrontation influences the characters' perceptions, of each other and of authority figures. We see them made sensitive to how people look, how people talk to each other, the sounds they make, and, even more importantly, shades how they interact. We see how differently people communicate with their own families, with their friends, their parents, their children, their colleagues, their lovers or their advisers, particularly through simple life cycle events.

Sometimes Michael Haneke toys with us, as the camera moves back and reveals that a poignant situation isn't as dire as we thought, particularly playing on the terrific Juliette Binoche's well-known image as a beautiful actress (and yes, she does look beautiful even standing around in lingerie ironing while watching TV). Or he plays ironic tricks – having deaf kids do emotional charades or perform in a marching drum band or creating ambiguity about a door entry code to reinforce a theme of restless homelessness. We see lovers who communicate passionately without words, in one lovely scene even without touching. (I wonder if this scene with these two inspired a related scene in Rodrigo García's recent "Nine Lives.")

One key character is a self-righteous photojournalist (really stereotypically portrayed by bearded, hunky, disheveled Thierry Neuvic in a multi-pocketed vest with an ever-present camera around his neck) documenting ethnic cleansing in Kosovo or taking candid portraits of unaware subway passengers. But he is helpless at assisting his rebellious teen brother or sullen farmer father or estranged young son. Issues of responsibility to neighbors and passersby is viscerally shown to be not the extreme goal of stopping genocide, but rather providing dignity to a fellow human being or simply listening to what's happening next door and acting on it.

Haneke provides sympathetic insight into the inner lives of African immigrants, with an ear to how happenings look different to Western rationalists than to those used to revelations of divine and interpretive meanings, particularly in dreams, or sense of time.

But while he is very sympathetic to the pushes and pulls of immigration that change people's place in society from matriarch to "the gypsy" as the universal "other" who everyone higher up in society puts down, the family scenes in the Romanian village are more stereotyped, with ethnic wedding dancing.

Haneke's disarmingly passive style, with almost no music or cinematic affectations (he even mocks his Dogme-style use of sound by showing actors in the film-within-a-film re-dubbing dialog lost to a passing airplane) does make us feel like voyeurs, with each vignette constructed in a single take. In the filmed interview he said the key opening scene took 32 takes before he was satisfied.
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Is Michael Haneke God?
garveytv12 October 2001
Well, I suppose not - but he IS the most exciting and interesting new filmmaker around. I would say "young filmmaker" - only he's not young; judging from his bio he's around 60. And he's not really "new", either - he's already made five films. But his films FEEL shockingly "new" - the MATERIAL is new; and it's some measure of how glacial the pace of real aesthetic change is in this supposedly-globalized world that he is only now becoming known in the U.S.

Those of you who have seen his best-known work, "Funny Games", would probably agree with me that it is the most horrifying movie ever made. "Games" coolly subverts the conventions of the horror movie to unremittingly punish the audience for its desire for violence. The effect is unbelievably harrowing.

Now we have "Code Unknown", which is not nearly as cruel an experience as "Funny Games", but which has the same strict intellectual armature. With as radical a technique as Godard's, Haneke takes a short scuffle in the streets of Paris as the point of departure for a meditation on true knowledge in a world of chance and mischance.

Haneke breaks the film up into short, disconnected fragments, with black spaces between them. In several no words are spoken, while others turn out to be "inside" films that the "lead" character, an actress played by Juliette Binoche, is making. Many are long, single shots - sometimes gliding along to follow the characters, but sometimes rooted in one spot as the characters drift to and fro. And the "stories", such as they are, wander too, from Paris to what looks like the Balkans, as Haneke follows Binoche, her war photographer boyfriend, his brother and father, a street beggar who is deported from Paris, a young black teacher of the deaf, and a host of other ancillary characters. What they don't understand - but we do - is that the course of their lives has been largely determined by encounters with people they'll never even know.

These people may think they're drowning in "too much information" - but actually, they don't have ENOUGH information; Haneke's recurring theme is our attempt to interpret a largely-unknown reality - and the problem of our responsibility to act on that interpretation. And despite a handful of longeurs, the effect is mostly completely absorbing. Those who were fascinated by the backwards-moving "Memento" will have a field day with "Code Unknown", where we have to tease out relationships, back story, and whether or not the narrative we're watching is "really" happening at all, with a lot fewer clues than Guy Pierce ever got.

And THEN - and this is what's interesting - somehow Haneke demands that we "make up our minds" about what we've seen; we feel compelled to judge, and yet we cannot - is the kid we see mistreating a beggar really a bad kid? Is the actress really being sealed up to die in a windowless room? Was the note from "a defenseless child" really written by an abused little girl (she turns up dead, so with a shock we appreciate what's at stake in our pause to consider the issue)? "Code Unknown" offers no answers - but then neither does life. The film ends with a scarily-happy drum-pounding by a chorus of deaf children.

I suppose what's startling about Haneke is that he has such an assured technique and yet eschews almost all directoral razzle-dazzle. He's not a Darren Aronofsky, ringing a dozen eye-popping changes on an essentially-empty story. And his intense horrors are justified by the depth and purity of his concerns - unlike those of, say, Tarentino or (God help us!) Guy Ritchie. Haneke's smarts are story and conceptual smarts, not adolescent film smarts; he's wildly daring, but he's icily mature. I'd almost say he's the heir to Kubrick's mantle, but these days that might be tarring him with an unwanted brush (as I watched "Code Unknown" I suddenly realized I was glad Pauline Kael was dead - she'd feel driven to sabotage this much intellectual challenge!).

I had to see "Code Unknown" at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston - however, there was a substantial crowd there; word is slowly getting out about Haneke. "Funny Games" is available on video (but be warned!); as far as I know, his latest, "The Pianist" (with Isabelle Huppert - Haneke's career is obviously being helped by interest from European-mainstream actresses) has yet to achieve a U.S. release. Here's hoping we'll see it in the States sometime soon.
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Why This Works
chris-142931 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
People on the boards below have labelled this film as 'challenging' - they're right. It's difficult to compare with other films - certainly any not by Haneke, such is the power of contemporary, original cinematography. Shot in a long series of short scenes which, to someone glancing at the film half-way through, could seem as though they are totally unrelated. However, one of the (many) little points of magic Haneke has implemented is that all the characters are connected not only by an event in the initial scene, but thematically as well. I don't want to spoil too much of the movie, but in a nutshell, this film aims to discuss a number of political and social themes which do connect, which in turn shed light on the thought that everything is interconnected and the links these connections provide can take an observer on a fascinating journey into one persons history/future and then another's. Through the scuffle at the start of the film (wherein, incidentally, themes of civil right, civic authority, morality, racism, prejudice in general and sociology are all presented initially), the characters who are apparently coincidentally caught up lead us into enlargements on these themes and even introduce new ones. The big ones are ones that were, importantly, contemporarily significant (and still are) at the time of the film's 2000 release. Asylum seeking, the war in Kosovo and communication on a very grand scale are three big ones. But there's more - astoundingly - alienation of youth, bullying, inter-familial relationships, nationality and a very intriguing look at cinema itself in conjuncture with thematic exploration of the individual, deception and a person's 'real self', or, as it is called in the film, their 'true face'. Having just written that paragraph and retraced the film in my mind, I find myself realising just how expansive this piece is. This is surprising perhaps, as at first the series of short scenes suggests that it is not possible to really explore something in depth. But then again, inquires Haneke (I imagine), if you get to the heart, the very point of something in a short scene - what is that if not 'in depth'. I believe that is what Haneke has achieved here - with remarkable skill. How? Well, the bottom line is, this is exquisite drama. It's brilliantly, beautifully acted, it's bold at times, it's suggestive without being glaring and then on the other hand, it huddles things close to its chest which an observer will only discover if they look very intently. Some of these I'm sure I have not seen - the ones I have alone are too many in number to recount here. Countless little things are running across my mind as I decide what to include in this review - I must mention the cinematography in detail. There are scenes where there is no dialogue; it is just an image with 'background noise'. But whatever is happening there in that scene is significant. It represents something and invites the viewer - undisrupted by dialogue or some other special event - to ask him/herself what that is. To say, 'what are the connections here, what is this scene telling me, and what are other scenes telling me about it'. That is why this works. To return to my introduction - the film is challenging in an importantly constructive sense. It makes you think, it makes you work to get the meaning - and not only that - once it has you there, it's been so constructed that it shapes that meaning in a certain way as to let you then perhaps rethink that idea in a new context! For some this will deserve multiple viewings, but this is all the better. I think everyone should watch it at least twice. There's simply so much here and it's portrayed in such a refreshing way that it would be criminal not to give it special attention.

P.s. A note on the title: A few suggestions have been voiced here as to what the 'unknown code' is - I think it's a number of things. Like many things in the film, such as themes, it is repeated here and there so as to be more effective to an audience. But repeated in a totally different and context. It could be the strange sign-language at the end of the film (communication being a major idea), it is most literally the door code to Anne's apartment but this in turn could represent attempts by the asylum seekers into France. Notice that Georges is removed from the apartment due to a fight and Maria is taken from France - due to a fight - and returns unsuccessfully. I think these are definite parallels - though they are tastefully engineered. This film excels in its ability never to be glaring, brash and obvious. It lets the film speak for itself. Which is what all films should do.
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Absolutely brilliant! One of the best of the last couple of years!
zetes22 February 2003
A brilliant an original film. It unites current fads in art cinema, the frequent long take and multiple, interlocking storylines, both of which are in danger of becoming cliché. The way that these interlocking stories begin and end is very interesting. It gives us so little, and leaves us to figure out so much for ourselves. It's like a cinematic test of the psychological principle of closure. We ourselves have to connect the scenes and build the stories. In a way, it's kind of a game, and a fun one, at that. But it does cover some serious and important topics, namely the interaction of the various, and constantly increasing variety, of peoples in Europe. Most of the action takes place in France, although it does journey to Eastern Europe often and even Africa at one point. And, thankfully, Haneke isn't happy about simply making blanket political statements about the situation. For example, in the film's second scene, a white boy throws a piece of paper into a homeless woman's lap. A young black man, an immigrant from Africa, sees him and tries to force him to apologize to the woman. They get into a fight when the white boy refuses, the police see it and haul the black man, the white boy, and the homeless woman away. The black man is charged, the homeless woman, a refugee from Romania, is deported, and the white boy is let go. The criticism seems clear and obvious, until we find out that the piece of paper, which the audience is originally to think is garbage, is money. We learn this from the woman, who tells someone else about it and how she had once done nearly the same thing to someone below her in class. None of the stories are resolved. We are left to finish them for ourselves. This is one of the best films of recent years. Really, there have been a ton of highly-praised directors who rely entirely on bags of gimmicks. It's so nice to see a modern film that actually achieves something resembling a re-imagining of how narrative works in the cinema.
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Be prepared to be confused
keithaitch13 May 2001
This is not a conventional film in the sense that the narrative is not complete. The myriad, unconnected short scenes from the lives of various characters that are presented to us have no beginning and no resolution. We come away having gained an insight into the lives of the various people we have seen, but wanting to know more about all of them. This makes for an incomplete experience, and if that is what you want or need then this is not a film for you. If on the other hand, a glimpse into the lives of people so every day and matter of factly portrayed, in a film so realistically set that suspension of disbelief is never an issue then this is a film for you. I came away, emotionally drained, without having had my emotions manipulated. On reflection (I think)this is a film about how cities dehumanise us, and on how we move together without connecting or communicating.
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Conscience and Consequence
donalohanlon31 October 2002
As per my review on

Haneke's masterful look at a modern European city examines

exactly what it is like to 'exist' in western society. The multilayered

story has many protagonists and follows their lives after they are

linked by a single event. Anne (Binoche) is an actress, her

boyfriend Georges is a war photographer, his brother Jean has

run away from home, their father struggles to manage his farm

and keep his emotions supressed. Amidou is a first generation

african imigrant, who teaches deaf children music, his father is a

taxi driver. Maria, from Romania, has been deported from France

for begging but must make the humiliating journey back to provide

for her family.

The film is complex, yet simple. It essentially asks wheather we

can ever really communicate, wheather we are ever aware of the

significance of our actions and most devastatingly wheather we

have a duty to help even if we are not asked for help. Do we have a


Haneke's film is a technical tour-de-force, with perfectly sublime

performances. Binoche has not been better since her days with

Kieslowski. Her performance as the dispossessed actress is raw

and real. The final scenes devastating in their effectiveness and


To answer/comment on other reviews here - The drumming is symbolic - obviously of the beat of a city and of

course of a heartbeat, but also the (interesting) idea of deaf people

giving sound to other people, they are generously giving pleasure

they will not experience. The music is also one of the many

languages of the film.

The use of a fragmented narrative and loose "story" is a way of

showing the fluid nature of all our lives - reality is never neat like a

conventional film scenario.

This is a film that is hard to decipher. It will take numerous

viewings, but is certainly worth it. Do yourself a favour and stick

with it. Supreme!
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don't have the code either
jdquinn-112 June 2004
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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Probably one of the more accessible of Haneke's dour, psychological studies
Graham Greene13 March 2008
Code Unknown; Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (2000) is another of director Michael Haneke's deeply austere and emotionally rigid intellectual probes into the human condition; and the various psychological elements that cause problems, not only in our personal lives and relationships, but in a broader, sociological sense as well. At this point it is perhaps worth noting that the film's essay-like subtitle alludes to the style of the film, which involves a number of long, unbroken shot compositions (some longer than ten minutes) that often end abruptly, with no real sense of resolution.

Presented as a series of loosely connected vignettes that focus on the idea of character interaction as opposed to narrative direction, Code Unknown is a difficult film to appreciate, at least at the level that many of us would probably approach it. One of the main focus points here is the idea of perception; how both we as an audience and the characters in the film perceive the action unfolding from the limited point of view that we've been given. Some good examples of this would include the lengthy and suitably tense scene early on in the story; in which a number of unconnected characters all come together through a seemingly mundane event that ends with a scuffle erupting between a white teenager and a young black man, resulting in both men - and the various onlookers - being arrested. Later, midway through a particularly disconcerting scene, a toddler playing on the balcony of a high-rise apartment slips, all the while watched with horror by his terrified parents who are powerless to do anything. Then finally, towards the end of the film, we watch in eager suspense as a young Arab boy harasses Juliette Binoche's character on a Parisian metro. Throughout the film and these sequences in particular we expect something spectacular and thrilling to happen but it never seems to arrive, until, of course, we realise that 'something' is happening.

As with his most recent film, the highly acclaimed Hidden (2005), there are a number of interesting sequences in Code Unknown, which, on basis of description alone, could easily lead one to believe that they are about to watch a tense, Hollywood thriller. The film obviously couldn't be further removed from this ideal, however, with Haneke once again offering us a dour, colourless psychological study, in which characters crash into one another almost at random and cause a ripple effect that disrupts the order of everything that came before. Clearly, Code Unknown is unconcerned with thrilling the audience, at least, not in the typical sense; with the film never allowing the dramatic tension to build to anything beyond the confines of these various character vignettes that are strung together one by one in order to build up the story. This is a film that wants to enlighten with a raw depiction of everyday life; taking the viewer from moments of deadpan humour (albeit, incredibly low-key humour) to scenes that evoke a feeling of almost crippling desperation. Once again, these techniques are used to mislead the audience into thinking that the film is heading in a different, very "non-Haneke-like" direction, before switching track and confounding us all over again. If you give it some time to really get going, then the results can be oddly thrilling, and - in my opinion - probably more enjoyable and satisfying overall than anything else Haneke has directed.

Still, the film does have that sense of screaming polemic that much of the director's previous work has occasionally descended into; with the loose ends and the experiments in cinematic formalism creating a cold and intellectual exercise that will naturally turn many potential viewers away. A real shame too, because regardless of these distancing intellectual experiments, the direction, photography and acting are superb throughout, and - like The 7th Continent (1994) and Funny Games (1997) - help to weave together a beguilingly tense tapestry of guilt, anger, misery and social despair.
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Pulsates With the Dance of Life
Howard Schumann29 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SLIGHT SPOILERS*** Released just prior to The Piano Teacher, Michael Haneke's Code Unknown is a powerful exploration of the barriers and connections between diverse individuals in a multi-racial city (in this case, Paris, France). Called "a collection of "incomplete tales of several journeys", Code Unknown has little plot, only incident and observation.

Shot in episodic fragments that last from a few seconds to several minutes, each tale is tenuously connected by sudden cuts to black. Scenes appear to start in the middle and end with jarring abruptness, as if the projectionist deliberately pulled the plug. The film begins with deaf-mute children acting out emotions. The children sign "alone, hiding place, sad, imprisoned", but their classmates do not respond. This leads to an eight-minute single unbroken shot that explores the chance interaction of the main characters and how a single act causes disparate lives to intertwine.

While walking on a busy Paris street, a teenager, Jean (Alexandre Hamidi), meets his brother's girl friend, a young actress named Anne (Juliette Binoche). He talks about his difficult life on the farm with his father who eventually expects him to take over. Jean, frustrated and angry throws an empty bag into the lap of Maria (Luminata Gheorghiu), begging for change on the sidewalk. A young Sengalese man named Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke), who is a teacher of deaf children, is offended by Jean's actions and confronts the younger man, demanding he apologize to Maria. The police side with Jean and Amadou is arrested. We learn later that he is beaten while in police custody. Meanwhile, Maria is deported to her home in Romania when she is found to be an illegal immigrant.

In this fragment, Haneke demonstrates how we often touch each other's life very briefly (sometimes making snap judgments and evaluations about people), then move on to our own activities without knowledge or awareness of the consequences to others. It allows the director to follow the lives of these characters for the rest of the film.

In an extraordinary episode in the Paris Metro that feels extremely real, Haneke asks us to confront the incomprehensibility of much of our experience. Anne, on her way home after a day re-recording film dialogue is challenged by an Arab youth on the subway. ("Don't talk to commoners?" he asks. "How can you be so beautiful yet so arrogant?"). When she retreats to the other end of the car, he follows and sits next to her. When he spits in her face, a man sitting opposite confronts the harasser, who backs down but tries to frighten them both as he leaves the train. Anne cannot understand this behavior and walks home in the rain sobbing.

I loved the sounds of the film, the street noises, the sounds of TVs blaring, snippets of conversations from neighbors, the exhilarating song and dance at a Romanian wedding, and the final extended Brazilian drumming sequence which builds to a resounding climax. Performances are uniformly outstanding. Binoche is a marvel; her performance is never self-conscious. During the shooting of a film, she laughs uncontrollably, then cries at will, both achieved with effortless grace.

This is not an easy film to watch and demands repeat viewing to fully grasp the director's intent. It will defeat those looking for unbroken narrative or character development, but should interest those seeking a compelling commentary about the obstacles to communication in today's world. As he did in The Piano Teacher, Haneke exquisitely captures the private moments of people, the things they do when alone or away from friends. The film has an emotional immediacy that never seems forced or artificial. When I left the theater, I felt unusually connected to the life around me. Both extremely beautiful and very ugly, Code Unknown pulsates with the dance of life.
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Struggles between the code and the meaning
Polaris_DiB22 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Haneke is very clearly a talented and intelligent filmmaker--and if the first two movies I've seen by him are any indication, I don't think I like his movies very much. That, of course, does not mean that they are bad by any definition, but it does show that his movies are not necessarily for everyone. I for one believe that a filmmaker capable of making an audience uncomfortable while keeping their attention is a gifted filmmaker indeed, and Haneke does that well with me. So, without further ado: Code: Unknown is an ensemble film of characters lives that intermingle and run across each other in Paris. Unlike such films as 21 Grams, Crash, et al, however, Code: Unknown is more of a statement on character's lack of identity than their interdigitated roles surrounding a social setting. Here, one can hardly call what is on screen as "social", even while relationships unravel, parties are held, and films-within-the-film are made. If you want to see the most utterly alone characters in all of cinema, look here.

The other movie by Haneke I've seen is The Seventh Continent, and these two movies are made in basically the exact same structure: immense long takes with black leader in between to separate them. The only exception to that rule is when Juliette Binoche's character is acting in a movie, at which point cuts occur, signifying that movies are ultimately fake.

Therein is probably one of the most difficult things about Haneke as a filmmaker: he strong-arms rather than invites. Long takes are typically used to make the audience to sit and look at the image on the screen for longer than they are normally accustomed to, but with Haneke I feel like he's taking that concept to the extreme (probably purposefully, which is why I don't criticize him for it) and basically forcing you into a specific perspective, which he will not change. If Bazin is right and there's a world outside of the frame, Haneke locks you away from it. And the only window he lets you have is to the world's darkest, most impersonal facets.

There's quite a long tradition of this in cinema, however. John Cassavetes is probably the most famous filmmaker operating in this mode, as he was known to purposefully cut out all the parts of his films that other people found enjoyable. Haneke certainly has something to say and certainly knows exactly how to say it. Just be forewarned that this movie is not meant to be enjoyable.

Otherwise, I really like his exploration of miscommunication and the ways in which the characters set themselves up to never be able to express themselves truly. If the movie weren't so insistent in tone, perhaps the emotional drive behind it would have more reverberation in my own viewing of the movie, but instead the disciplinary shooting causes me to be intellectually resistant to his particular world-view.

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Going nowhere anybody?
sansay18 February 2008
I am French and I must say this is a rather disappointing movie. It starts well with an interesting event in which 5 persons are involved. Then we follow each of them in their own thread of life, switching from one to the other without any connection. This kind of scheme usually leads to some interesting plot where destinies cross each other. But not there. It just goes nowhere. And then it's real, real slow. I usually am an admirer of movies where you get the time to think, to observe an interesting scene. But not here. In this film many scenes linger on without any reason at all. It feels like we are just put on hold! What a bore.
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Do you speak celluloid?
Framescourer28 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Haneke's film is about communication - its importance but also its difficulty. It is a string of episodes, rather like the formal arrangement of a musical suite, in which the dramatic momentum comes from the tension that interaction between characters causes.

I have not seen Juliette Binoche act better. She is at the centre of this film, her character in the self-referential sequences which necessarily examine the medium itself (the ritornello of a suite analogy). Gradually, in Altman/Short Cuts or, on a larger scale, Kieslowski/Three Colours formal style, characters are introduced that play out their own dramas. A whole range of wires get crossed - language, culture, class, religion, and of course love. A violent sequence on the metro is represented as if without blinking - very frightening indeed.

I'm glad of the ironic final sequence - deaf musicians performing to an audience unfettered by misunderstanding the fun they're having. It's a bouyant end to a 7.5/10, poetic film.
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tedg17 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
German art has its own fascinating charm, especially contemporary German film and most especially the Austrian subset. There's a desire for purity that creates clarity, often remarkably clear and well-machined films. The problem is that the filmmakers truly believe that this Cartesian purity brings one closer to the human condition, crisp beings that we are.

So we get a shorter distance between us and the film. That's good. But there is an almost unbridgeable gap between the film and the world — any world — that matters. Herzog has figured a way around his national urge in this regard by pretty much just being nuts and making committed obsessive films about committed obsession. Tykwer escapes by becoming Polish. But Hanake is stuck.

I really liked this as a film, as an artifact with craft. There's a lot of polish and refinement in what it is, how it is imagined, and the machining of the parts. It starts (and incidentally ends) with amazing panache: deaf children playing charades and unable to guess.

It has some true performances, most particularly with the women around whom this revolves — including Binoche.

It has some remarkable long scenes that are continuous takes, often tracking in complex ways. These are not interspersed; they are the thing itself, with many scenes of simple observation where nothing apparently happens. This allows us to really drill into the lives of these people — if they were anything like humans.

The problem is in the construction. He has decided to follow an already well established structure of several casually interwoven lives. What he has uniquely done is weight every life — indeed every action in each life — as equally important. So adjusting a camera is as "important" as a shot of a farmer shooting his bulls because his youngest son has abandoned him, the last family member to do so.

In wiser hands, this could have conveyed the angst of the ordinary, but it works the other way, selling the banality of the dramatic.

For students of narrative folding, the chief man is a war photographer, and his photos anchor what we see in the film. His girl friend (Binoche) is an actress and we have folded in two films (a remake of "The Collector" and a fictional one that matches "real life") and a Shakespearean play about shrewish love. Wonderfully imagined, and structured, but in a mechanical universe.

Vienna as an algorithm.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Poorly conceived, over edited and over written.
Richard Brunton10 April 2005
I'd heard about this movie from somewhere, I think one of my friends told me about the movie as possibly as an example of good French cinema, or maybe that's two different stories. Whatever it was it was recommended to me as a good film and what French cinema is about. On those recommendations I'll never actively seek out an example of French cinema again! The film was awful. It's a collection of stories that are linked in some way, although the links are extremely tenuous, and the film clips back and forth between them with no apparent reasoning. Each of the cuts is harsh, unforgiving and unexpected, and you find you have to take time to re-orientate yourself before you work out where or why.

To be quite frank there's no real understanding of what the movie is about until you listen to the two Director interviews and he explains what it is about. Let me give you that benefit now. It's about how impersonal we have all become, and how we no longer connect with each other between people in the streets, friends, family or generations.

Armed with that knowledge you suddenly understand what it's all about, but to be quite frank, that idea could have been covered with two or three of the scenes on the movie, and covered very well. Looking back on it, once I understood the message, I really did feel like I'd watched scenes of repetition and filling until the key points of the main storyline came through.

I could have done without all the side stories, stuck with the main storyline of the couple going out together and the dysfunctional son living with his grandfather. That story alone would have told what the Director wanted, and much clearer than the mish-mash of scenes and stories that came about. Listening to the Director talk, you almost feel he built the movie around his ideas for the street scene, and the rest is afterthought.
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Mr. Haneke, will you please let the audience in on whatever the joke is?
evilmatt-310 April 2004
When folks call a film "pretentious," I usually believe it's just because they don't wish to take the time to understand it. That said, this film catapults beyond pretentious straight into downright hostile. Haneke, in a spasm of lazy, uninspired filmmaking, has chosen to make a film so utterly incomprehensible that even David Lynch fans such as myself will simply scratch their heads and wonder, "Now *what* was the point of all that?"

Yes, yes, yes. I know. It's called Code Unknown, not Code Obvious. So, supporters will argue, this should be a difficult film. Frankly, it ridiculous to suggest that a film should somehow resemble the concept it is trying to communicate. (Incidentally, how can a film ever successfully resemble a *concept*? But I digress . . .)

The editing, though clever, completely detaches us from the characters emotionally. That's a good thing though, because with the exception of Binoche you will see them so infrequently you'll forget they were even a part of the film. The conclusion is anti-climactic, absurd, and (you got it) pretentious. The only thing I got was this film was a major freakout from the little deaf girl at the beginning. I *never* want to see her face on my TV screen , shaking her head in that disapproving way again. Brr.

Leave this one alone.
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Life unlocked
ellkew7 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A mesmerising film that spoke to me on so many levels. The opening sequence (after the deaf children) which kick starts the several narrative strands is such a brilliantly filmed sequence.

An admittedly wrong act by a youngster (how often do we see that) which is responded to by a passer-by thus setting in motion a chain of events that touch the lives of various people. The sub-heading of the film 'Incomplete tales of several journeys' reminded me of '71 fragments....'. Life is incomplete, unfinished and things are not resolved. What Haneke is taking on board here is the responsibility as a filmmaker to present the fiction as honestly as possible. This is perhaps why he is interested in using the fixed camera approach. A sort of anti-Hollywood (if you like) shooting style. By minimising the shots and dispensing with editing within a sequence he is presenting something in real time and with the intent I imagine of being more honest and less manipulative. That said I think in a work of fiction it is still possible to present a narrative using a variety of shots to engage the

viewer. As a filmmaker you are manipulating time but who said a filmmaker had to be true to the viewer. Film is fiction, even documentary. It could even be argued that documentary is less honest than fiction. What is truth? Or is film really the truth 24 times a second. We know who said that. So as a filmmaker just by presenting a narrative we are presenting fiction, however we show it for we are giving our interpretation of events, that we have written. Haneke is trying to straddle a fundamental problem here. One of truth. I think he fails in being honest but succeeds in making a superb piece of cinema.

The acting is beyond reproach. Binoche excels herself in a scene which is a rehearsal for a film within the film. It is a fixed video camera filming her as she reacts to the direction given her by the director off camera. It is a wonderful scene. Another powerful scene is when Binoche is on the metro and is pestered by two youths. She moves seat but is confronted again. It is a brilliant example of how we are unable to break out of our rigid class system and confront what is happening around us. Afraid of the world around us. Tied to a rigid system of behaviour. Mute.

The big bad city is all around us and it will chew us up and spit us out, whatever path we choose. We are slaves to its rules. I suppose Haneke is saying this is the route we are going down. He is also saying that often the route is out of our control. Meaning our lives are out of our control. We are at the mercy of chance encounters, brief moments that we pass by without acknowledging. These small instances are what really govern all our destinies and the incomplete time we spend here.
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Great film that stays. Have to re-watch.
bikenavy29 June 2013
Upon re-watching it, my reaction was oh...okay, everything makes sense now. Haha. I loved the film and that's why I'm watching it again. What I remembered from the first viewing though was that nothing really makes sense. It was all fragmented but really intense. I didn't understand anything much but I just loved the form, the energy, the direction. Now that I'm seeing it again, everything makes perfect sense. Everything is there. The story is well connected. How did I miss it? Was I too young when I first saw it? Now that I know everything is well connected, the mystery is gone in a way. It's less fascinating in a way. It's like the "code" is not unknown anymore. The key has been unlocked. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing. One thing for sure is that the film is definitely not random. But part of me wish that the bewilderment was still there.

Still a great film though. Truly inspiration.
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It is easy to appreciate a film as adventurous and as daring as this one is, but it's often too encrypted and sprawling to truly get excited about.
johnnyboyz21 October 2011
Code Unknown doesn't live up to the promise of its opening scene, an opening scene of which is a spectacularly composed and wonderfully executed continuous take of various people on a Parisian street intermingling, interacting and walking back and forth. People travel from one end of the street to the other, continuing their lives as we leave them and pick up another person walking back the other way; things leading onto other things and a disagreement which turns rather more ugly than anyone would like. The elegance and the effort put into the sequence places us right there on that street with all of those people, and it is a form of deep, unflinching immersement no other trick nor ploy other than and sense of filmmaking will ever produce.

One of those persons walking is Jean (Hamidi); a youngster of whom doesn't get on with his father, the other individual at the other end of the street is Anne (Binoche), who's in binary opposition to Jean in terms of gender; age and ethnicity. She appears to be in a rush and is talking busily into a cell phone – something in contrast to Jean's wondering loner, built well and hulking; an early attempt at most probably pointing out how diverse life is and how everyone occupies the same intimate plain, or street, and yet are miles apart in their ability to communicate and interpret, epitomised when squabbling break out following an altercation. Such a hypothesis might very well be at the heart of Michael Haneke's Code Unknown, I'm not sure; that of communication and interpretation and how, in spite of the fact we're all human, just being able to get along is often beyond us. In this piece, Haneke doesn't strike us as a director who uses conventional means of execution to get across a sense of unfolding high-end drama.

Take, for instance, the scene within which we are plunged into a couple enjoying time together in a swimming pool within the confines of their apartment's outdoor area – only, they fail to spot their toddler child crawling along the ledge thus staring at a thirty storey drop. After going through the motions, Haneke reveals that they were, in-fact, shooting a film within the film and none of it was real. In a re-dub session some time later, the two actor-characters begin to fall about into fits of laughter due to a joke as the unfolding drama plays out on a screen in-front of them, dominating the frame. It might be read into that this is Haneke's own cackling at what could be perceived as easy-drama and cheaper, easier ways of instilling frills into cinematic viewing; the sort of thins one might attribute to more mainstream, more "Hollywoodised", projects. Amusingly, Haneke uses a frame grab from the aforementioned pool scene for the film's poster in order to advertise his film. Another curious idea Haneke here applies is his cutting off of scenes and sentences half way through finishing; this sense of the never-ending, of the infinite and of the continuously progressive as each story literally happens in tandem feels desperately trying to push its way to the forefront of our attention. While the application of such an idea seems distinctive and creative on paper, it very quickly formulates into something just grating.

In Code Unknown, he shoot couples having arguments in supermarkets before rekindling a couple of aisles later. The heated exchange begins to a background of alcohol, an ugly debate made better once they're out and away from the intoxicating products and sharing the company of shelves sporting products of a healthier sort following their arrival at a part of the shop selling diary drinks and shelves containing beverages generally inclined to be good for you. Another strand sees an actress shooting scenes for that aforementioned fake film in which she falls afoul of a serial killer with a very specific modus operandi, that is to say the locking of people in relatively large, but empty, mahogany drenched, centuries old rooms and watching them slowly die. This idea of ugliness, encapsulated by one man's nature, combining with beauty, elegance or high-culture in the form of his chosen locale within which to kill, seems to be a juxtaposition summing up the frantic and disjointed nature of the world and those within it; those of whom are more often than not at complete odds with one another, and yet are thrust into inhabiting this same plain as before.

The film will carry along down this path, opening with a telling prelude featuring deaf children attempting to play charades with one another using only sign language – interpretation being the key verb. Here lies an example of people attempting to figure out what it is the other person is thinking; a struggling to comprehend the angle upon which they approach; the trying to see things from their point of view, before carrying on down a route of several strands depicting several sorts of people of varying ages and differing backgrounds. One cannot help but feel one is repeating one's self when one states that certain strands, stories and interactions between those therein are more interesting than others. In spite of being fully aware of the year of Code Unknown's production, the likes of everything made since, from Babel to Betty Fisher & Other Stories to the more recent Swedish film Involuntary, feels both a little bit better than Code Unknown and less top heavy. The more of these sorts of films one sees, the more impacting and more concise one feels their overall thematic needs to be in order for it to actually resonate. There are a number of examples, going back to 1993's Short Cuts, which pull off the gross influx of stories and characters that it decides to take on - this expansive; drawn-out and weighty approach to things working well here and there, but too often dragging Code Unknown down to the level of window dressing.
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A snorefest
tezhowes19 April 2003
A tenuously connected series of boring, static vignettes collectively struggling to suggest something about dehumanization through bigotry/intolerance. Witless, and yet oh-so-pretentious, crap. Literally mind-numbing - but then Haneke goes on to create the challenging, visceral, thought-provoking 'The Piano Teacher'.
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Too bad the director wasn't able to cut some of the stories out of the movie
By reading the title: "Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages" which is translated as "Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys", you can already know what to expect. You'll get several story lines and none of them will be thoroughly explained or even finished. That means of course that there is a big chance you will not understand it or that you'll have to stay very focused from the beginning until the end. Personally I don't mind watching 'weird' movies with a special concept, but I know many people don't like it all that much.

"Code Inconnu" tells the story of several people who don't seem to have anything in common except for the place where they live: Paris. But what they don't always know is that their lives are all connected in one way or another. George, a young farm boy, wants to leave his silent father and wants to go living with his older brother in Paris. That brother is a photographer who covers the war in Kosovo and therefor can't let him in. He's upset and throws a bag of half-eaten pastry into a beggar's lap. A black man witnesses it all and sees it as a form of disrespect and racism towards the beggar. He starts a fight with George, which upsets Anne Laurent, the young men's sister-in-law. This fight also colors her relationship with her husband, when he returns from the war in Ex-Yugoslavia. In the meantime both the black man and the beggar have been arrested, the beggar is send back to Kosovo and Anne is the subject of racism herself when she is verbally attacked on the subway by some young Arabs...

The main problem that I had with this movie is that it never seemed to finish what it started. Michael Haneke, the director and writer of the script, has come up with an original idea, but should have stayed with only three or maximum four people. I understand that he wanted to show the world that we are all connected in one way or another and that we all affect each other's lives, but sometimes it was impossible to keep it all apart and to see it as one solid movie. It sometimes was a bit messy and I can understand that many people who don't like or who aren't very familiar with 'foreign' cinema, will not like it at all. Still, I don't have the feeling that Michael Haneke deliberately wanted to make this movie look like an arty and pretentious project. I just think that he was a bit too ambitious in his drive to make it all connect in one way or another.

By watching the acting, you can also see that he wanted his movie to be as normal and as natural as possible. Overall the acting is good. Especially Juliette Binoche did a nice job in my opinion. She understands the way to act naturally without to much extras and knows how to make her characters speak for themselves without having to act in a very obvious and theatrical way. I really appreciate that. But also the other actors did a nice job. I don't know many of them and can't remember I've ever seen them play in another movie, but what I said about Binoche also counts for them.

All in all this movie shows a portrait of Paris like many people don't want to see it. In this movie you'll not see Paris as the perfect and romantic City of Light. That's an image that only exists in Hollywood, with the touristic service of Paris and in the minds of young couples. In reality it is a noisy city full of traffic and hasty people. So in that perspective, I must say that Michael Haneke really showed Paris the way it really is. And yes, racism also is a part of that, just like it is in all the big cities...

As a conclusion I would like to say that it is a shame that the story has been divided in so many sub-stories, if only the directer had made a choice between some of them and had left the rest out of the movie, this might have been a masterpiece, because the acting and the idea behind it are really good. Now it's sometimes a bit messy and makes it a lot of the viewers loose all interest. I give this movie a 7/10.
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An intelligent film that deserves a wider audience
William J. Fickling15 July 2001
To my knowledge this film has not been commercially released in the US,not even in art houses, as evidenced by the fact that all the IMDb external reviews are European. This is a shame, because it is an intelligent film, necessitating close attention on the part of the viewer, that deserves a wider audience. Yes, it is another of those films like "Magnolia" and "Amores Perros" that is episodic, depicting a number of characters who barely if ever meet, yet whose lives intertwine and permanently affect one another. The film is not only an excellent depiction of Europe today but a superb illustration of the role of chance in life, of how a seeming random event can have major and lasting effects on the lives of others. If the teenage lout had never thrown his trash in the beggar's lap, she would never have been deported, the African would never have been arrested, etc. A superb film! See it if you can.
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Political, not metaphysical
Manuel Rivera12 February 2001
Finally a GOOD political movie; without any didactics, it shows the desperate everyday of contemporary Europeans. Despite of his references to the documentary style, "Code inconnu" is a very artistic movie, with masterly built dramatic situations. Furthermore, it makes reflections about his own "state" - are pictures really able to translate experiences, are we betraying as while doing "art" and so on. But all that in a very silent, unspectacular manner. Great. (By the way: Binoche is that good she never was.)
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