Sunday, 19 November 2006

Caché (Hidden) (2005)

This review was originally posted on Ian's Personal Blog on 18th June 2006.

Hidden'The truth is always hidden. That's how it is in the real world.'

Director Michael Haneke is justifying the many ambiguities in his film, Hidden (Caché), a film that some have called 'pretentious', but others 'the first great film of the 21st century'.

I don't hold with the group who deem this pretentious - that's just lazy criticism, although I'd say that calling this the best film of the century is a bit over-the-top too!

The film appears, on the surface, to be a tense 'whodunit' thriller, albeit one where the ending isn't tied up with a nice neat tidy bow. There are many different answers to the central question of 'who' in this film - all there in the film if you look (check the final scene as the credits roll for one possible solution that opens up a whole new set of ambiguities) but to concentrate on the 'who', rather than the 'why' is somewhat missing the point.

Essentially this is a film about morality and guilt and how people deal with it - guilt that can arise through immoral actions, or just by having tried to do the right thing. Although the film has as its starting point an incident involving France and Algiers in the 60's, it seems particularly relevant in the light of recent revelations about the Iraq War, Guatanamo Bay or even the recent police incidents in my home area of Stockwell or north of the river at Notting Hill Gate. It's a thought-provoking piece of work.

Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche play a seemingly happy and successful couple with a young son, who one day receive a two hour video-tape of their home, demonstrating that they are being watched. Things quickly escalate from there, and to say more would be to ruin the film for anyone who hasn't seen it. It's a gripping film, albeit an irritating one if you're expecting a nice, tidy ending, but for me, unlike say Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, the continual ambiguities and lack of a clear-cut answer strengthen rather than weaken the film. This is a film that will provoke many discussions amongst those who've seen it, and one that stayed with me for several days after seeing it.

Although released in the cinemas just a few months ago, the movie is already out on DVD (in stores tomorrow) and DVD purchasers have the advantage of a fifteen minute interview with the director where he explains the ambiguities of the different clues that are scattered throughout the movie, some of which are easy to miss. A 'Making Of' documentary is not the usual fluff piece - instead being primarily an 'on the set' diary which shows how much of a perfectionist the director can be, and how difficult that can make life for those having to work with the director (Juliette Binoche in particular comes across as having suffered from the director's continued irascibility in his drive for perfection). None of the difficulties of the shoot matter of course, where the audience is concerned, particularly when the end results are this good. If you want a 'feel good' movie or a straightforward tidy Hollywood ending, this is not the movie for you. If you want a film that's as real as life itself, raising as many questions as it answers, leaving your brain in work-it-out overdrive then you're going to love this. Highly recommended!

Hidden screencap

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