Sunday, 5 February 2006

Caché, dir. Michael Haneke (2005)

On Friday evening I went to see Michael Haneke's new film Caché. It's a fine film, so subtle and insidious. The film opens with a long sequence of a camera shot of the front of a house with people coming and going, cars passing, life happening, and it all looks rather innocent until we see a rewind button being pressed. We realize that we are watching what the two protagonists are watching, an anonymous tape of their house left on their doorstep. More tapes are sent, but who is sending them and why? They lead Laurent (played by Auteuil) back to a long lost childhood friend and the events that forced the boy into a new life that follow him tragically. The macro event is the massacre of over 200 Algerians during a protest in Paris in 1967 when they were driven into the Seine. The boy's parents were among the dead. So many scenes of the film are make you question points of view, who is watching, are we watching a tape, is this the 'objective' camera, who am I? It creates some very odd moments of identification with the characters and is remarkably unsettling.

The film is about responsibility, individual and collective. The whole subject of France's very difficult history with Algeria is probed in a very intense way by Haneke as we see Laurent deal with what it meant for him as a six-year-old boy. It's not a history lesson, it's far more powerful. Very little actually happens in the film. That is, very little except for one very VERY shocking encounter between Laurent and his childhood friend. An encounter that makes us completely refocus our appreciation of the effect of these events on the boy's life. Juliette Binoche brilliantly traces out a character that slowly doubts and disintigrates in front of this faceless amorphous threat. There is no soundtrack, which really adds to the relentless quality of the film. It is merciless on the viewer, there is nothing easy about it at all. And the final intriguing scene leaves you screaming questions at the screen, literally. And then you stop yourself short when you realize that treating it as a whodunnit is the easiest question to ask about the film. It's very powerful, very clever. Mark Lawson described it as the first great masterpiece of the 21st century: I disagree only in that I don't think it's the first (for that see previous film post). But it's an extraordinary film.

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