Monday, January 15, 2007


2005, France/Austria/Germany, directed by Michael Haneke

Opening like a conventional thriller, Caché quickly moves beyond genre expectations and takes up many threads that mark Haneke's previous work: a concern with representation; a dissection of the modern sense of anomie; and acute discomforts onscreen and for the viewer. Caché begins with a family's discovery that someone is watching them - and sending them videotapes to prove the point. As in the film scenes of Code Inconnu, this allows Haneke to play with our expectations such that we're never quite sure what is a 'real' and what is the taped version of that reality; these sequences unspool at some length, compelling the audience to become absolutely complicit in the voyeurism. Haneke offers no explicit explanation for the events depicted, but the film reminded me of J.G. Ballard's 1988 novella Running Wild, deeply concerned with issues of surveillance and youthful (mis)behaviour.

I was struck by the way in which Georges (Daniel Auteuil) repeats almost verbatim the words of his counterpart Georges in Code inconnu when absolving himself from any real blame in a childhood incident at the core of the film. Haneke uses that incident to pose difficult questions about where individual responsibility ends. Those past occurrences relate partly to the events of October 17, 1961, when the Paris police killed as many as 200 Algerians, events brought to public attention through the efforts of writers - especially Didier Daeninckx - and filmmakers. The cast is exceptionally strong; Auteuil has grown into darker material like this after starting out in some very lightweight fare, while Juliette Binoche is reliably excellent. The supporting work is equally strong, with, for me, Maurice Bénichou and Annie Girardot doing some of their finest work here.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States