Caché (Hidden)

Director: Michael Haneke
Screenplay: Michael Haneke
Stars: Daniel Auteuil (Georges Laurent), Juliette Binoche (Anne Laurent), Maurice Bénichou (Majid), Annie Girardot (Georges’s Mom), Bernard Le Coq (Georges’s Editor-In-Chief), Walid Afkir (Majid’s Son), Lester Makedonsky (Pierrot Laurent), Daniel Duval (Pierre), Nathalie Richard (Mathilde)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2005
Country: France / Austria / Germany / Italy
Caché DVD
Caché Mysteries are typically about their answers. People go to mysteries and thrillers expecting a story in which questions are raised and explored within two hours, with the ultimate goal being the arrival of the resolution--we find out who did what and why. Our obsession with answering these questions goes a long way toward explaining why we’re willing to tolerate narrative laziness like the cliché “talking villain”--we need to know.

Michael Haneke’s Caché (Hidden) is a different kind of thriller because it is not about its answers, but rather about its questions. The film’s meat is in the journey, not the destination, as Haneke uses the basic form of the thriller to get at deep, uncomfortable questions about the nature of guilt. Some critics have compared Haneke’s work here to Alfred Hitchcock, and that’s a fair assessment, as long as we’re thinking of Hitchcock in his experimental Vertigo mode. But, even that film supplied answers to the basic questions it raised.

The story in Caché involves an upper-class Parisian couple, Georges (Daniel Auteuil), who hosts a TV talk show about literature, and Anne (Juliette Binoche), who works for an upscale publishing house. They have begun receiving anonymous videotapes of their house under surveillance, the significance of which is a complete mystery. Why would someone do this? Is it a threat? A message? A warning? The tapes arrive unmarked and in plastic grocery bags, although they are accompanied by unsettling child-like drawings of a little boy who appears to be vomiting blood. Is this some kind of threat toward their 12-year-old son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky)?

As the tapes continue to arrive, Georges’ suspicion turns to Majid (Maurice Bénichou), a French Algerian who he knew as a child but has not seen for decades. The exact nature of Georges’ childhood relationship with Majid is left vague for much of the film, even after he confronts him at his apartment, all to no avail. Haneke also throws in increasingly lengthy flashbacks (they begin as almost subliminal flashes, but later develop into something more coherent), although by the end of the film we cannot be sure if they are actual memories or dreams. Haneke makes it clear that they are rooted in Georges’ consciousness, but that only makes them more suspect. They could very well be Georges’ mind creating fantasy memories that fit the lies he’s told in his past.

Throughout the film, Haneke shows a firm grasp of what makes a great thriller--an intriguing plot, careful development, well-placed clues, unexpected actions--which makes it all the more fascinating that he is utterly and completely uninterested in answering the questions he raises. Rather, his interest lies entirely in his characters and the way in which events from the past shape their present lives. Georges has a secret to hide, from both those around him and, apparently, from himself, and the lies of his early life come back to haunt him, literally.

In this respect, Caché is primarily a story about guilt and how even the things we do in childhood take on a life of their own (metaphorically speaking, the film is very much about France’s national guilt over its treatment of Algeria, which can be seen in parallel to Georges’ unthinking childhood selfishness). Caché is a powerful film in the way it draws us into the story and finds its most wrenching moments in the human drama of conflict, whether it be Georges faced with his wife’s discovery of his having lied to her, or Anne being confronted by her son who suspects that she is having an affair with a family friend (like everything else in the film, who knows if he’s right?). Haneke nails the emotional resonance of each scene, and even the ones that don’t have simple explanations (like the much-discussed final shot that either explains a lot or brings up a host of new questions) have a quiet, terrible grandeur.

Caché DVD

Aspect Ratio1.78:1
AudioFrench Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround
Subtitles English
  • Interview with Michael Haneke
  • Behind-the-scenes featurettes
  • DistributorSony Home Entertainment
    Release DateJune 27, 2006

    The anamorphic widescreen image is excellent throughout, maintaining the film’s high-definition digital images with good detail, strong color, and a clean presentation. Much of the film takes place either inside or during the daytime, so there aren’t a lot of dark scenes; however, those few scenes that do take place outside at nighttime are well rendered, with good blacks and excellent shadow detail. The soundtrack is likewise strong, although it is extremely minimal. The film doesn’t have an extradiegetic musical score, so the majority of the soundtrack is composed of dialogue and subtle sound effects, all of which are well presented in a front-heavy Dolby Digital 5.0 mix.

    There are two supplements on the disc, each of which runs about half an hour in length. The first is an in-depth video interview with writer/director Michael Haneke, in which he discusses the film and what he thinks it means, including that confounding final shot (so definitely don’t watch the interview before the film). The other supplement is a typical and not terribly informative featurette about the film’s production. There is also gallery of theatrical trailers for other films released on DVD by Sony, but oddly enough, the trailer for Caché isn’t included.

    Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Sony Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (4)

    James Kendrick

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