Review: Caché (Hidden, 2005)

Suspense without the use of music, what a thought!

Screenplay By: Michael Haneke
Directed By: Michael Haneke

Leave it to Michael Haneke to make a most unconventional suspense film. He creates suspense through everyday life, through the simple comings and goings of his characters. It all starts with one tape, or rather the introduction of an outside force. We, as the audience, never truly see this outside force. I mean, maybe we do, that all depends on how one chooses to interpret the film. Even if someone does take the standpoint that a certain character is in fact the bad guy I’m not convinced that much matters. The bad guy in Caché is but a catalyst, a god type figure who exists to bring events out into the open and to dog the leads of the film. If one spends too much time focusing on the person responsible for the tapes the power of what the tapes represent is lost.

There is someone in Caché doing something that could be construed as bad or horrific. Due to the result of the tapes, the death of a person, it is easy to peg the person responsible for the tapes and the letters as an evil entity. I think that is a shortsighted view and too easily shucks aside the omnipresent god aspect of the tape maker. The tape maker brings out facts about the male lead, Daniel Auteuil, and strains the relationship of the two leads, Juliette Binoche is the other lead, as a type of test. The moral fiber of Caché is found in how the leads react to what is happening around them. Do they falter, or do they stand strong? Do they start to fight with one another, or do they present a unified front? Do they seek to blame the easiest target or do they take true stock of their own lives?

The answers to the above questions could swing in one direction or another. There are no easy answers to be found in Caché, in truth there are no easy outs to be found in this picture. It’s not easy for a person to have their morals tested, and it’s not easy to be confronted with the consequences of the sins of your past. This is nestled against the idea of the future, and the inevitable horror that awaits the future generations of the world. I did not know that there were two key characters in the background of the final scene of Caché. Now knowing that fact I don’t think it changes the way I interpreted said scene. Whether those characters are present or not the final scene is about what the future holds and how there is sin waiting to be enacted and consequences waiting to be meted out.

Herr Haneke crafts this ambiguous suspense around two very engaging leads and his camera. Monsieur Auteuil and Madame Binoche are the anchors of the film, their relationship is real and that makes what they are going through all the more immediate. It helps that the two leads both give great performances and manage to feel like a lived in couple without much effort. Herr Haneke’s camera holds back, much like his pacing. Most of Caché is static, there is a sense of stillness to the proceedings of the film. No matter what characters do the events that transpire will transpire because these are universal truths that Herr Haneke is tackling. The film is suspenseful because of what isn’t shown as much as for what is shown. When a character dies it is shocking, but it’s more shocking because of what hasn’t happened before that moment. The script avoids many conventions typically found in a suspense film, and by doing so it creates suspense so heavy that the flimsiest of knives could cut a swath through the picture.

I had to think for some time about Caché. The presentation of the film is very simple, as are the themes. The staging and production of the film are stark and avoid any flashiness. Yet the film gave me a lot to chew on and mull over. There are many different ways that a person could read Caché, and that speaks to the skill of the direction and the excellent writing. With Caché Herr Haneke has taken a universal look at morality from a very specific point of view. More than that Herr Haneke has made another great film in Caché.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “Review: Caché (Hidden, 2005)

  1. This is my favorite Heneke film, and it rates a 5/5 for me. I love the way he “tells” you who did it all in the last scene without actually pointing it out. But you are right, the point of the film is how we see ourselves as a victim, which causes us to misjudge who the real victims are. For me, this film is Hitchcockian, but goes beyond any Hitchcock film. (Although it’s still not better than Rear Window.)

  2. The Hitchcock connection is definitely there, yet Haneke creates a suspense that is perhaps more organic than anything Hitchcock ever thought up. That’s not a slight against Hitchock’s version of suspense, I love Hitch as a director after all, but it is interesting to watch the different way that Haneke handles suspense.

  3. I just finished watching this movie, very well done and didn’t even notice there wasn’t a musical score at all. I love foreign films because most say so much about the human spirit, our struggles, conflicts and victories. Juliette Binoche gives a fine performance and her son’s character in the movie was so believable you could feel his pain in the way he felt towards his parents especially Binoche. I’ve seen this movie years ago and was a bit mystified as too who I believed was behind the tapes, but after this second viewing, I’m almost 90% sure I know. 🙂 Great film. 4 of 4 stars

  4. The great thing about the film is that knowing who is behind the tapes is a minor matter. The truths that the tapes unearth within this family are what really matter. Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

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