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Code Unknown [2001] [DVD]

24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Josef Bierbichler, Alexandre Hamidi, Maimouna Hélène Diarra
  • Directors: Michael Haneke
  • Format: Anamorphic, PAL, Widescreen, Import
  • Language: Arabic, English, French, German, Romanian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Artificial Eye
  • DVD Release Date: 19 Nov. 2001
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NZHT
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,930 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

On a busy Paris boulevard, a youth scornfully tosses a crumpled paper bag into the outstretched hands of a beggar woman. This is the bond which, for an instant, links several very different characters: Anne (Binoche), an actress; her war photographer boyfriend Georges; his farmer father and younger brother Jean, who, contrary to his father s wishes, has no interest in inheriting the farm; Amadou, a music teacher for deaf-mute children, and his family, who originate from Africa; and Maria, a Romanian immigrant. Written and directed by Michael Haneke, one of modern cinema s most distinctive and ambitious directors, Code Unknown is a complex film of powerful emotional force and a fascinating study of the subtle connections and barriers between people, social class, race and the difficulty of communicating in the modern world.


In the prelude to Code Unknown, we watch as a class of deaf children play a very sophisticated game of charades. In response to a blank-faced girl shrinking slowly against a wall, the children guess: is it sadness, isolation, loneliness? We are not told the answer before director Michael Haneke cuts to the extraordinary opening sequence of the film. This nine-minute tracking shot along a busy Parisian boulevard, introduces the film's central characters: Amadou, a first generation French boy of West African descent; Maria, a Romanian illegal immigrant; and Anne (Juliette Binoche), a French actress, trying to make the leap from theatre to film. However, this is the only time we will see these characters together in one place before the film fractures into a series of vignettes, which slowly describe their lives, their cultural isolation and their search for small moments of beauty within this alienation.

Michael Haneke has been credited with reinvigorating and refreshing Austrian cinema with expectation-smashing early films such as Funny Games; if his newest pan-European films are anything to go by, he could be set to do the same for Euro cinema in general. Though Code Unknown is very different from Haneke's Benny's Video or Funny Games, like them this film also implicates and involves the viewer in the guilt of the on-screen characters. Its structure of intricately woven story strands is entirely provocative and stirring--politically, aesthetically and emotionally. It's exactly the type of film you want to watch again and again. As with the players of the opening game of charades, we won't be given any easy answers to questions about our collective guilt in the racism and alienation of an undeniably multicultural, multiethnic Europe. --Tricia Tuttle

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Oct. 2001
Format: DVD
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 responsibility.
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 simplicity.
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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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 13 Aug. 2005
Format: DVD
Code Unknown was a revelation. The first Michael Haneke film I've seen, I was surprised at how vitriolic the reviews have been here and on the film's IMDB page - arty-fartsy and incomprehensible seems to be the general concensus, yet I found it remarkably vital and accessible for a film revolving around race relations and everyday failures to communicate. Starting with an incident on a French boulevard where misinterpreted actions have consequences for all the wrong people, it proceeds in a series of incomplete scenes by people linked by the incident or their relationships with those involved, taking in a multi-ethnic city where so many people have shut off from those around them that they either fail to understand each others' problems or to even make the effort.
What's particularly interesting is that it plays on the audiences own prejudices and presuppositions - at one point we naturally assume that a young black character is seated away from the window booth he requested in a restaurant because of his color, but no: it's because he turned up 45 minutes late and the place is busy. Similarly, it doesn't presume that people in what are supposed to be empathetic or compassionate professions are inherently good - when Juliette Binoche's actress asks her war photographer boyfriend advice about the sounds of child abuse from a neighboring flat, he doesn't want to know and her anger is more because he won't give her an out but forces the situation back on her. Her solution: ignore it. Even the innocent victim of the opening incident has to admit with shame that she herself had done the same thing to people she looked down on. It's beautifully worked out with several powerful sequences that are uncomfortably familiar to city dwellers (the metro sequence is particularly powerful) and somehow comes across as exhilarating as it is uncomfortable. Great filmmaking - and a nice extras package on the DVD, too.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. F. E. Marioni VINE VOICE on 15 Oct. 2007
Format: DVD
Michael Haneke's multitude of mini interlinked storylines about different cultures living in Paris and how communications can be strained is, as with most of his films, definately not for everyone.
Filmed with the camera focusing solely on the main character of a particular strand of storyline is an interesting technique so that you the viewer only sees what the principle character sees.
Described by some as Crash for adults is certainly a valid argument. While Crash guided the audience through its interlinked storylines with minimal effort on the viewers part and certainly described on many occasions why prejudices occur. Code Unknown does the complete opposite, it has no music to dictate your mood, after the two main setpieces one at the beggining and one at the end there is no big dramatic moment involving the concerned characters. Haneke leaves you to decide on how you felt about each and every scene which as i've already said is not for everyone.
I have now seen this film twice and had a different take on events both times. The acting especially from Juliette Binoche is faultless and the two dramatic set pieces are absolutely riveting.
If you like challenging cinema with a little pretention than look no further than Code Unknown
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan James Romley on 15 Jan. 2008
Format: DVD
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.
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