Saturday, February 04, 2006

Caché (Haneke, 2005)

Michael Haneke’s Caché is a film made to be seen, re-seen, dissected, analyzed and discussed. It is a film that holds us in suspense, but does not do so with the purpose of leading towards a cheap thrill. Indeed the film’s palpable sense of tension dissipates only slightly with the appearance of the end credits, leaving the viewer with much to contemplate on the way out of the cinema and into the parking lot. At the end of the day, Haneke reveals only part of his hand; but, the cards he exposes and the cards he keeps ‘hidden’ are well chosen. With a plot centering on mysterious surveillance videos being made of a well-to-do French family, Haneke’s cold, dispassionate directorial style is perfectly suited for his complex, multi-layered script. The takes often linger several moments beyond our comfort level and are often shot at a distance that makes empathy extremely difficult. Naturally, the paranoia and racial tensions at the heart of Caché resonate deeply for anyone who has been politically aware for the past five years; however, the film is too deep to be neatly categorized as either a thriller or a political allegory. We’ve seen marital tensions like the ones played out between Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche before – someone or something draws attention to problems lying beneath the healthy veneer and things begin to crumble – but the characters and situations are so particular, so masterfully executed, that we are unlikely to care.

There are many interpretations and readings that could arise from Caché’s elusive conclusion. This, of course, is what makes for great art. But without giving too much away, here’s what I took from the film: that the only way to live in true happiness and peace is to take responsibility for our actions in the past. And yes, this applies to nations as well as individuals. An unsettling provocation to rank with Haneke’s best work, Caché is a puzzler in which answers only lead to more difficult questions.



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