13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Like a languid picnic on a hot summers day, the participants may be chasing away the ants and blue bottles whilst mopping the sweat from their flurried brows, as multiple dynamics emanate from a fixed set scenario. Lying under a total amnesiac blanket is the blue bottle in the Chablis.
This coats itself over the baked bread of modernity to probe the flaked scab which lies under the hardened crust. Then it reveals a startling picture of scuttling insects scurrying as they inhabit the brain and memory channels. Each microbe tries to reassemble the past to fit it into the present, and to create a resonating future dream all based on an innate gossamer tissue of lies.
The film focuses on how these hidden emotional undercurrents are rearranged to fit this glossy represented version of composed power point reality. Using the modern technologies of CCTV cameras, mobile phones and TV's he builds a narrative, looking at the middle class lie and the sewer that lies underneath and how the present connects directly to the past.
Our hero, is not what he appears on his TV screen persona, erudite, incisive, surrounded by the attributes of culture. In emotional reality he uses these as props to hide away from himself, and in particular his troubled conscience which each night sits him on a turning spit and then roasts him in his sweated fevered dreams over an open fire of his memories..ouch.
Each sleep mare forces him to shift from his composed daily fiction to inhabit his past life, as he beams back to a time when he set up his friend, a kid already traumatised into an orphanage, due to an inner jealousy. Not just any kid, but one whose parents were killed by the french police when they were protesting against injustice in the 1960's. This is when the french police pushed the protesters into the Seine and killed them, the same police who were headed by Bousequet, the man who rounded up the Jews back in the 1940's. The kid is sent away to a children's home where god knows what happened to him in the 1950's/60's/70's.
In flash back we get glimpses of the sedate farmhouse becoming the haven for a nasty ongoing dynamic. Meanwhile we are led into modern sterile erstatz french middle class lifestyles, all based on tiers of mis communication, as each person is locked within another socially autistic world; leaving the son to grow up by himself. No one notices whether a 12 year old actually returns home or not, it becomes a metaphor for a middle class social norm. As the lifestyle is "all about me."
Meanwhile tapes and notes are being left for our hero, who feels threatened by an outside force and brings himself to a Daily Mail psychological besieged state of brimming fury, directed at those beneath him, where he must constantly man the ramparts of his personal castle to fire his vengeance onto the unknown threat.
It is of course his conscience, played out in the night, returning during the day. He is the alienated man and has split into two, the actor and himself, each feels a deep unease when confronting each other on a constant daily basis.
As the story unfurls this is like passing the buns, lemonade and the cucumber sandwiches whilst the sun beams onto the happy scenario, until a familiar face turns up shakes hands and then....whoooshhhhhh. On the surface, it reflects the tedium of modern life, with its incessant bland sterile passive aggression and inculcated manners, but dig a little deeper and a whirling malevolence within the middle class charade oozes out of repressed childhoods, as deep lanced sores and boils, bubbling with crud coated over with another duly purchased blanket, keep reappearing.
An absolutely stunning psychological blast of a film that penetrates as hard as it can without making a silent whimper, replete with stunning performances from the assembled cast.
Dull, tedious, nothing happens except....yes that is the point...it is a mirror, not an escape route into another comfort blanket...
Be warned of the reflection!!!
on 23 August 2015
This film has a lot going for it, such as drawing the viewer in with an intriguing mystery, building a sense of tension, highlighting some social issues, provoking some difficult questions and in particular some very good acting. Some may also consider sudden shocking moments that stun the audience to be a strength, but I didn't appreciate being subjected to a particular one in this film. Also, whilst I appreciated the long unmoving shots, echoing the mundane videos and creating more of a sense of watching real-time events, I did still feel at times that they went on too long.
Despite the good aspects, by the end of 'Hidden' I felt disappointed and slightly cheated. It ends unexpectedly, raising more questions about the plot than it answers. We must either accept that there is not enough information to even make guesses to resolve the mystery in a realistic way, or conclude that the mystery is just a trick played on the audience and has no realistic explanation. Even if you consider that the mystery driving the plot is superseded by the examination of its effects on the main characters, this should surely then be taken further by giving us a glimpse of what the ongoing effects of these events are at some later stage. I would have been satisfied with an indication of how well the characters had moved on and what they thought of these events at some later point. Instead, the director seems not to care about either the characters or the audience, which is distinctly unsatisfying. Some reviewers seem to feel that this is daring and provocative and that these qualities make the film great, but whilst I feel that some film-makers should test the limits in this way, it does not automatically make for good films. Others remember only the disappointment of the ending and rate the whole film based on that. I'm balancing my disappointment against the good aspects that I mentioned first.
"Caché", or "Hidden", is about a Parisian married couple for whom life appears ideal. They are professionally successful, he as the producer and host of a TV arts programme, and she in publishing. They have one son about 13 years old, a nice house and a close circle of interesting friends. Life is more or less perfect. Then one day they receive a video tape from an anonymous source. It shows the street where they live, with their front door as the focus. The tape runs for about two hours. In it they see themselves leave their own house on their way to work, their son leaving for school. They see cars pass, pedestrians pass, and a lot of nothing happening at all. A few days later another similar tape arrives. Then another. There is nothing overtly threatening in the tapes, but someone is obviously watching them. Their life has suddenly and eerily changed.
I saw "Caché" on TV about a year ago and found it utterly intriguing, so much so that I recently I bought the DVD so that I could watch it again. The film is written and directed by the Austrian director, Michael Haneke and anyone who is familiar with his work ("Funny Games", "Amour", "The Piano Teacher") will know not to expect the usual formulaic movie style. Haneke deals in harsh realities and non sugar-coated pills. He presents us with life-like complexities and outcomes. Life is full of loose ends and unresolved questions, as are the films of Michael Haneke. But they are so much more powerful for it. The husband and wife are superbly played by Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. The film is in French so I required the English subtitles which did not take from it in any way.
As is the case with all his work (that I have seen) everyone and everything looks normal. There is no Hollywood gloss - these people might be our neighbours, the places might be our neighbourhoods. The dialogue is as we might speak ourselves - no super-smart bull. The film is shot with a lot of fixed-frame, long-take shots. Everything is beautifully done. It is totally superb.
And what it is about? Well, the scene is set as I mention above. The rest you must watch yourself. There are two excellent "extra features" on the DVD including an interview with Haneke in which he states that the film is about guilt, about accepting or rejecting the blame for bad things that happen because of something that we have done (even unwittingly, or innocently) and how one deals with that acceptance or rejection.
I would really like to tell you more about the film because I loved it so much, but anything I tell you will not do it justice and may even spoil it for you somewhat. Just watch it - it is cinema as it should be.
But, if I may, one thing..well, two things.
1> Watch out towards the end (ok, how will you know it's towards the end?..well it's almost 2 hours in) for a scene of a farmyard, empty except for the presence of a few chickens, and with the sound of a car engine fading into the distance. It is more powerful in its few minutes than most mainstream films are in their entirety.
2> The final scene. Very mysterious...what is it about? I had really no idea but it still moved me powerfully. Then I watched the Haneke Interview and I knew a little more, and also found myself amongst the approx 50% of viewers who had missed something that is relevant in that scene. After the interview I watched the scene again and then I pointed out what we had missed to my wife and she said "OnmyGodddd!!!"
Actually, it doesn't matter if you miss the thing in that scene, but if you do happen to notice, well...my wife put it perfectly..."onmyGodddd!!!"
Oh, and finally, the film's name "Caché", or "Hidden". What exactly is it that is hidden? "The truth". Haneke tells us, "The truth is always hidden. There are a thousand versions of the truth. It depends on your point of view."
Stunningly good cinema.
on 16 November 2014
The film sometimes, unforgivably to some, plods along snails pace but the relationships and diaglogue is far from redundant. They are instead, rich with meaning and intrigue and hugely relevant to the conclusion. You have to look for the clues rather than have them provided on a platter, but the answers to the entire film - what it is really about and why things happen the way they do and why the film is named 'Hidden' really lay in the final two scenes. This is a whodunit of a more complex kind (it is no Miss Marple) whereby you get to choose the guilty party, with merely a subtle pointer of two to help you get started, because the one provided for you from shot one is really a giant red herring. Well worth a watch, provided you are up for something a bit deeper than your usual Agatha Christie Potboiler. There are a couple of scenes in the movie which could be distressing, which is why it is rated 18. Not a night to tuck into KFC and large fries.
Overall, I was disappointed with this film. It did seem at one point that the very slow and fastidious build up would reward the viewer with some substance at the end, but the substance was lacking for me. So it started off with a very interesting premise, but unfortunately it ended up being nothing more than a morality tale with a shock thrown in for good measure. Perhaps that was the point, that is to be left with a slight emptiness as a result of the cruelty of life and unscrupulousness of childish revenge and it's possible repercussions in later life.
I watch a lot of films of various genres. I have seen slow build-up films which nevertheless leave you with a sense of having learnt something or gained a lasting impression. This one unfortunately just ended up irritating by the end.
74 of 93 people found the following review helpful
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2011
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.
on 8 February 2014
This is a slow burner about conscience and how it creeps up on you, references in other reviews about lifestyle and chablis are irrelevant. I've yet to meet someone who has not done something they regret, just how much they torture themselves with it afterways, depends on the individual and possibly their level of intelligence. I liked the movie and have watched it twice. In the final scenes it is conceivable that Dannys character commits suicide because his phone call to his wife asks that his son does'nt think too harshly of his dad. I don't care for movies that spell it out, I like to consider all the possibilities, this falls into that category.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2014
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.