January 20, 2006

What Exactly Is Hidden Here?

Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche

Caché [The Hidden], Michael Haneke's newest film about bourgeois French guilt starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche is a fascinating treatise about the powers and limitations of the camera. A story of a middle aged Parisian couple who begin receiving unsettling surveillance videotapes, it's one of the most anxiety inducing films Cinecultist has seen since A History of Violence last fall. It's the kind of movie whose tone makes you long to get up from your seat from the suspense and yet you won't want to miss a frame.

Right from the beginning, Haneke plays with our assumptions that what's on screen is what there is to see. The opening shot, an exterior of a middle class Paris house in medium distance with the credits playing over it, is revealed to be the first of the mysterious tapes delivered anonymously. However later in the movie when the camera moves around to reveal other angles of their street, you realize how impossible it is that a camera could be position in that spot unnoticed. It's much to high, well above the cars parked there, and almost in the middle of the street. It's as though it had to have been on a tripod or cherry picker or something. In this moment and many others, Haneke wants us to distrust and question what we see in the frame.

This visual theme is expertly carried over into the story as guilt and secrets come bubbling to the surface in this complacent family. A harsh indictment of the French intellectual and their country's relationship to the Algerians, the movies is probably pretty prescient about the future of America's own connection to the Arabs within its borders. We hate to say more elusive things but really this movie's resonance lies in knowing not too much as the film starts. So just go see it and be wowed.

Posted by karen at January 20, 2006 9:01 AM