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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Productive frustration
I wasn't prepared for how powerful Caché turned out to be: it's been a long time since I've heard an entire cinema gasp in genuine shock at one sequence and it's almost as shocking second time round on the small screen when you know what's coming. On the surface it's a fairly typical French film, but it's what's under the surface that really counts. That said, it's...
Published on 22 July 2006 by Trevor Willsmer

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
somewhat disturbing subject matter well acted
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Alastair Burnett

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Productive frustration, 22 July 2006
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
I wasn't prepared for how powerful Caché turned out to be: it's been a long time since I've heard an entire cinema gasp in genuine shock at one sequence and it's almost as shocking second time round on the small screen when you know what's coming. On the surface it's a fairly typical French film, but it's what's under the surface that really counts. That said, it's still a film that many dismiss as empty or dilettante filmmaking, either because it's more concerned with the fallout its mystery provokes than offering a solution or because it's just trendy liberalism. It's certainly not for all tastes.

The central premise is simple enough, as Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche's comfortable bourgeois life is put under increasing strain by a series of videotapes of the their house accompanied by childish drawings of bleeding faces. The tapes show nothing: their menace comes not from their contents but the fact that they exist. Since the drawings have to come from someone who knows the character's past, is it Auteuil's Georges' own conscience that is sending them? Or is it the filmmaker himself to provoke a reaction from his characters? Significantly the tapes are all shot on a fixed camera mounted on a raised tripod in what must be a clearly visible position. The appearance of the second tape blocking a doorway that was clear earlier in the shot offers little else in the way of a possible natural explanation.

But the tapes are really just a Maguffin, a narrative device to push the characters and plot forward. This particular lost highway leads into the past, and France's inability to apologise for it's colonial past (specifically Algeria), something it absolves itself of all guilt from by repeating the mantra that it was all in the past when they were much younger and knew no better, as if that wipes out thousands of futures denied or stolen. It's no accident that the film revolves around a failed adoption that mirrors France's own failed colonisations.

While the characters are believable rather than Godardian or art-house archetypes, it's easy to ascribe a wider allegorical purpose to them. Georges is a reflection of France itself, outwardly respectable but denying his past and not acknowledging guilt over Algeria (significantly, Auteuil was born there). He simply doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't even connect emotionally with his present, let alone his past, mother, son and wife all a part of his life he really has nothing much to say about. Nothing is ever Georges' fault, not even a near accident crossing the street. He blames a cyclist for his careless mistake, showing that he has learned nothing from his past but is still repeating it. As with the opening of Haneke's epic of non-communication, Code Unknown, he is oblivious to the wider implications of what is to him a trivial moment or of the possible consequences of his moment of self-righteous anger.

Just as he edits out anything 'too theoretical' in his TV show, he tries to re-edit his own past (just as the French government did last year when it passed a law that "the benefits of French colonisation in foreign countries should be recognised and integrated into school programs.") but can't do it quite so easily. Not that he doesn't try. Both of Georges' initial flashbacks are dishonest reinventions of memory: Georges turns his childish conspiracy against one character into his victim terrorising him, reinventing his memory and history to reflect his current interpretation of events and reality. It's this reinvention that allows him to honestly claim without any real evidence that he is being terrorised - "a campaign of terror" are his exact words - by the person he has wronged, actions currently being replayed in Iraq. To France, the atrocities inflicted on the Algerians don't matter - it's the threat to Georges that, in his childlike ignorance, is all that matters and must be dealt with radically.

Indeed, even though Majid and his son are French-born, both are regarded as foreigners, intruders. Yet neither conforms to the stereotyped 'Arab' image: polite, sad, very pointedly not aggressive, yet still regarded purely as a threat for being goaded into an action for which they were punished.

Binoche can be seen as the French people, kept in the dark, asked for their trust although trust is not extended to them in much the same way that Blair in the UK asked for people's trust over the intelligence that led to the UK's involvement in Iraq yet never revealed nor explained his reasons beyond his contention that he was convinced it was "the right thing to do, but it's time to move forward." But if Binoche is the French people, she is no more admirable herself. Both ignore the violence and torture that plays unwatched on a TV in the background in one scene and concentrate on their own immediate priorities.

I still haven't had time to fully digest all the implications of the ending - is he committing suicide himself? (Probably not since he feels no guilt.) Is the hidden shot of two children talking to each other in the final shot a sign of complicity or the way that each generation is doomed to suffer for the sins of the father? Is it the next tape to be sent? It's almost a Rorschach Test for the viewer: how you interpret it says more about you than the film.

Haneke makes no secret that he isn't interested in providing answers but rather is forcing questions on the viewer to make them more of a participant: "I'm not going to give anyone the answer. If you think it's Majid, Pierrot, Georges, the malevolent director, God himself, the human conscience - all these answers are correct. But if you come out wanting to know who sent the tapes, you didn't understand the film. To ask this question is to avoid asking the real question the film raises, which is more: how do we treat our conscience and our guilt and reconcile ourselves to living with our actions... I look at it as productive frustration. Films that are entertainments give simple answers but I think that's ultimately more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think."

Decent extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include making of documentary Hidden Face, interview with Michael Haneke and trailer - but don't look for any answers there.
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
OK, I can respect the opinion of those who think this is boring, incomprehensible and pretentious .. but I don't agree!

This is two hours of totally absorbing but infuriatingly frustrating cinema. It's true that there is no real dramatic closure; and such denoument as there is (ie in that final enigmatic scene) is "hidden" by normal everyday activities which continue to play out around it - a metaphor for the film itself in fact. But what's wrong with making the viewer work a little? I can't remember the last time I saw a film which made me think about it for hours later. Just what exactly has been happening in this story? What are the potential ramifications for the future? Just what is the nature of the relationship between the various protagonists? What are their motivations? And is anyone in the whole film really innocent?! Haneke keeps these things hidden - and it's for us to work out the truth.

Haneke gives us multiple layers to peel off here. Watch for an early scene showing an apparently random confrontation between a black man and a white man. I view this scene as encapsulating the inter-racial tension which underpins the whole narrative. Also, the dinner party scene, where six people are present; one of these is a black woman, and she is the only one who is not given any meaningful dialogue. Yet it is HER husband / partner who tells the story of the dead dog .. an allegory which shows that even when you start a new life, your past will catch up with you, cannot remain .. hidden.

Haneke doesn't beat us around the head with issues of racial tension, but they are there to be read in the film, particularly on repeat viewings. And it's significant that it was a (real life) incident of ethnic conflict which commenced the whole sequence of tragic events in this film. Indeed, Haneke states in the interview on the DVD that it was this incident which prompted him to make the movie. It's really about guilt for the past, facing up to that guilt and dealing with it; and the almost impossible search for the truth, which seems fated, ultimately, to stay hidden, as successive deceits are piled one on top of the other. So, there's a lot to get out of this film, as long as you don't approach it expecting simple Hollywood-style storytelling and narrative resolution.

Be warned though: there are two extremely graphic, jaw-dropping moments; sensitive viewers may wish to avert their eyes .. except that Haneke hits us so suddenly with these images that there is no time to do so! So you'll be stuck with those pictures in your head. This film-maker really does know how to toy with his audience.

One of those scenes involves an animal decapitation which I take to be real. I'm wondering how this got past the BBFC. Fair enough, the scene is definitely not gratuitous; in fact, it is a pivotal point in the narrative. Even so, I understood that the BBFC were obliged by legislation to cut such scenes (the same with the slaughter of the ox at the climax of Apocalypse Now). Is there any film buff or legal expert out there who can explain this?

Bottom line though - highly recommended as essential viewing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All is Hidden, 9 Jan 2009
Kismet (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
This has to be the most intriguing and interesting film I have seen in a long time. As the hours and days pass since I first watched it, I continue to see new angles and dimensions to this film. It operates on many levels. Everything is not what it seems. It is a film of the unconscious.

The viewer gets a clue to what the film is about in the form of what seems an amusing little anecdote told over a smart dinner party.

On the face of it, all is comfortable, intriguing, successful, attractive, even enviable, from a bourgeoise perspective. But scratch the surface of anything and something uncomfortable lurks beneath. The film is often considered frustrating because, like our own shadow, all is not knowable. The unconscious is not available for scrutiny, analysis and clear-cut answers. Hidden takes the viewer unwittingly down a scenic route of their own selfish assumptions.

Haneke very cleverly uses the viewers own 'greed' to know, to unravel, to make sense and have tidy answers of the obvious story line. He also plays with our fears and opinions to test our self-honesty in terms of where we deny our own shadow self.

The viewer is taken through a series of value systems that scream out man's inhumanity to man. We skim along the edges of our dark sides. Where we truly dare to dip in and allow the experience of dischord, there is, at least, some honesty and integration of self.

In our quest to quickly find solutions, we must make snap judgements, entertain suspicions, all without really seeing much more than the facade. We have hints and clues that something incongruous pulses through each dynamic but we are consistently frustrated to discover the full 'that which is hidden'.

How quickly did we sweep away all that was uncomfortable? Majid's removal from the family home was so shocking by virtue of its starkness. And, yet, it symbolised how the psyche treats its own troubled thoughts. Instead of nurturing them into wellness, they are swept away to suffer, abandoned and neglected. The more their presence is denied, the more empowered they become to haunt and disturb, even the innocence.

How long, one must ask, did we dare to really feel and investigate the darkness? Or did we prefer to grasp at a neat get-out and pretend all was not so bad. However, in the quest to have our own mind satisfied and made tidy again, the viewer makes judgements and treats the instances of other people's suffering as fodder for our own selfish quest of knowledge and answers.

It is a film that is essentially self-reflective of our own darkness. It gives huge scope to ponder where, in each scene, the psyche dared to look beneath, at what point that became too uncomfortable to stay with, which issues did we drop and reassure ourselves that it was not so bad and what values we were willing to slide along with to assuage ambiguity.

The thriller aspect was a very clever vehicle with which to deliver the hidden film beneath.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect condition, 10 May 2014
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Seen the film before but even better second, third, fourth,, time round :) defo recommend to anyone who can sit through long films
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74 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and thought-provoking, 24 Mar 2006
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Unlike the last reviewer, I think Hidden is stunning. The lack of music doesn't bother me: the film is made with such subtlety and surefootedness that Haneke doesn't need the emotional prompting that so many films require from a soundtrack. Music can be great where it's needed and this film doesn't need it and would be spoiled by it. As for the patronising attitude to French films, what can one say. Don't like them, don't watch them. I admire the way this film-maker is prepared to entertain (yes!) and make his audience think.
The absence of closure is, of course, an essential element in the success of the film. Inevitably we speculate on the level of story - just who did send the tapes? However, as everyone recognises, the film is about more than the Laurents' and particularly George's guilt. Making a character responsible for the tapes would apportion 'guilt' and that is a key theme of the film: George's guilt; France's in relation to Algeria; the coalition's in relation to Iraq (it isn't for nothing that one scene has a news report from the Middle East in prominent background); the viewer's reponsibilities for events in their lives.
I read the film as exploring the nature of guilt, taking responsibility for what we do and the way(s) we go about that. At the end of the film, George has gone to bed, taken pills, shut out the world as much as he can. What he did as a child may be understandable, though unkind and cruel: he wanted his parents to himself, though it is clear and ironic that as an adult he doesn't want his mother or her farm at all.
That it isn't a conventional thriller is obvious from the opening frame though it exploits elements of the genre: there is no 'set up' or equilibrium to be disrupted beyond the duration of shot one until the tape is rewound: the first shot throws us into the mystery of the surveillance, as though it had always existed (perhaps like the stirrings of George's conscience/guilt for his childhood behaviour).
The handling of point of view is brilliant and unsettling too: much of the time we are unsure whose eyes we are seeing through. It also seems to me that the whole movie could, in a sense, not really be happening but represents George's fear of his guilty conscience.
I wouldn't claim to be able to give a masterclass on this film and understand every nuance, but that's OK: I only saw it last night for the first time, and it has been pre-occupying me since. I shall certainly be going back to enjoy its thought provoking narrative and superb craftsmanship. A great film.
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50 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden, 23 Feb 2006
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Caché - 'Hidden' - directed by Michael (The Piano Teacher) Haneke, is a masterclass on how to unnerve your audience, not through what you necessarily show but by what is indeed hidden from view. Georges (Daniel Auteil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) are a bourgeois Parisian couple with a teenage son. Georges is presenter and producer of a literary debate tv show, a man with the power to edit the discussion within his programme and present an alternative version of the past to his viewers. But has Georges been economical with the truth of his family history? He and his wife begin receiving videotapes of their home, apparently filmed from across the street. The same viewpoint frustratingly forced upon the viewer in the opening credit sequence, this is one of many static shots in the film that provoke as many questions as they might at first seem to resolve. What at a first glance appear to be voyeuristic recordings in fact give nothing away.
More tapes follow - as do disturbing, childlike drawings of decapitated chickens, which hark back to a memory of Georges', which is made manifest in a nightmare. Is it an elborate prank being played by their son, who suspects his mother to be having an affair with a family friend, or something more sinister? Georges tracks down what he believes is the culprit to an estate in the Paris suburbs. There he is reunited with a man he has not seen since he was six years old, an orphaned Algerian who Georges' family had looked after as a boy when his parents were killed in the Paris massacre of immigrants in 1961. But Georges has a guilty secret. Did he, as a young boy, set up this Algerian orphan to be sent to a mental institution? Flashbacks give suggestions but, again, frustratingly, the full reality of the situation is obscured.
Caché skillfully and subtly plays with audience expectations, with most of its inner tensions unresolved apart from one brief and terrifyingly visceral moment. Against convention, this moment of extreme violence - as it involves the death of a key character - seeks to further bury and obstruct our access to the truth, while simultaneously heightening the suspence. The film could also be construed as a metaphor for France's inability come to terms with its relationship with Algeria, arrogantly rewriting its colonial past. But like much of the narrative, this is not made explicit, but is rather a further provocation in a film filled with subtle antagonisms. Brilliant.
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38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtlety of French culture wins out, 6 Mar 2007
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
The polarisation of reviews here seems to me to show the difference between Hollywood and European culture - the French tolerate ambiguity, Americans don't! Where the US film industry expects to provide its audience with a resolution to tie up all ends neatly, Haneke reminds us that life's not like that and to add an artificial ending would simply prevent the audience from using its intelligence to speculate on what happened next.

Far from being a "cop-out" ending, this is an enigmatic, almost elegaic ending to a beautifully crafted film in which the viewer eavesdrops on conversations and by inference is the voyeur intruding on the happy lives of Daniel Auteuil and Juliet Binoche (whose acting, free of the constraints of melodrama, is both minimalist and totally spellbinding.) Is the answer in the childhood of Georges, or through his son Pierrot? In the final analysis, it is we the audience who feel guilt for our unwitting participation and inertia as we observe the tragedy played out.

Haneke's subtlety and timing are wonderous. The joy of Hidden is how the atmosphere is built up through a silent soundtrack, glorious cinematography with lingering shots to build up a depth of understanding about the character's emotions, a spare script and the brilliant use of a sudden, unexpected shock. It leaves you edgy and uncomfortable without the need for explicit disclosure (except for one, very graphic instance) - and without closure the haunted feeling didn't leave my mind for hours afterwards

I came away feeling not cheated but slightly awe-struck, stimulated and challenged rather than force-fed. As such, I regard this as a very fine movie, worthy of comparison with great thrillers like Day of the Jackal.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even if you do not like the film, watch Auteuil and Binoche's performances. You will not have seen better., 23 Aug 2007
steve b (Dudley England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Hidden clearly splits viewers into two camps, those who love it and compare it to what Hollywood would do with the same subject, and those who believe it is arty, pretentious, French rubbish.

Although I believe it is not as good as some of it's supporters claim, I do come down on the side of those like, rather than loath it. It is slow when compaired to most European films let alone American ones. This film is often called a thriller. If you watch it because you are expecting a thriller, then you will feel cheated. It is a film about guilt and the stress that the events cause to the family.

Even those who do not like this film cannot but praise the performances of Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. It is acting of the highest order and totaly believable. A film worth watching just to see these two performances.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cash for Cache, 15 Sep 2011
This review is from: Hidden [Blu-ray] [2005] (Blu-ray)
German director Michael Haneke is not everyone's cup of tea. Like a number of European "auteurs" through film history, his movies tend towards the philosophical if not existential, and because of this they can be both exciting and infuriating in equal measure. The Piano Teacher had all the repressed sexuality of Belle de Jour at its best, yet his "Hollywood" re-make of horror-in-the-cabin-in-the-woods thriller Funny Games seemed unnecessary to say the least. Hidden is probably the movie he is most well-known for in both Europe and America and while not perfect - and the plodding plot and anxious silences are not the stuff of modern-day British and American thrillers for sure - the mood of the piece, and the brooding atmosphere of some terrible event to come, is to be admired here. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche deliver terrific performances as a couple with secrets, pasts and dilemmas all stored up and ready to burst forth the moment a series of videos of them and their home start appearing at the door. And if you do want to get all intellectual about it, the film is something of a commentary on our increasingly Facebook/Twitter/blogging-obsessed lives and how so little of what we hold as private and dear can be kept so in the modern age. But the movie is also just a great psychological thriller. Slow, meditative and self-conscious? Yes, and that's why it won't be everyone's idea of a Friday night picture with pizza. The film's shocking moment and denouement won't necessarily inspire all either, but cinema ought to be thoughtful and provocative at times as well as entertaining and forgettable at others. Whatever you might think of Haneke, his films are never the last of these descriptions.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Is Always 'Hidden', 1 Nov 2009
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
I work at a local arts cinema, and so have the chance to see many films. This was my film of the year for 2005.

It was the great Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky who noted that if nothing happened on-screen then viewers would become bored and start to fidget, but that if still nothing happened on-screen viewers would start to sit up and notice (or words to that effect). The opening of this movie has that effect: we see just a typical Parisian side-street with the odd person passing by and the odd vehicle too. Nothing much happens. Soon, one becomes hooked and drawn into the story. Indeed, one could say that we become part of the story - or even in league with the narrative's perpetrator, since it is all about voyeurism. We are in the position of the mysterious tape-recorder of lives.

Those lives are of Georges (Daniel Auteuil), his wife (Juliette Binoche) and of their young son. But it is Georges in particular who is the centre of the recorder's attention, for Georges wants to keep secret an event from his childhood, a secret he wants to keep even from his wife. On the television, we see the war in Iraq and the repression in Gaza, but Georges has his own potential Islamic conflict from the past to confront, only instead of suicide bombers, it's his reputation that will be killed.

Like a modern day Hitchcock, Michael Haneke provides some disturbing jolts along the way - cyclists on the road, the dog story at the dinner table, the killing of the chicken - but nothing prepares you for the big shock to come (that I will refrain from mentioning for fear of spoiling the movie). So much of the movie is about the everyday, which makes the jolts all the more shocking. This is compounded by the lack of any music soundtrack.

There is an excellent hour's worth of extras. There is a twenty-five minute interview with the director who says that the work is a moral tale about supporting the burden of guilt, but that the personal guilt of Georges in the film can also be seen as a national guilt that is not exclusively French: all countries have their `hidden' shame. There is also a thirty-five minute `Making Of' that mixes on-site filming with interviews. It is an excellent way of showing how Haneke works.

So who is the mystery taper? The truth is always `hidden'. And for those wondering about the final scene in the film ... watch closely what happens on the left-hand side of the screen.
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