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(UN)HIDDEN CAMERA: THE "REAL" SENDER OF THE TAPES

Antoine Doinel

over 5 years ago

This is a “theory”/analysis I had proposed on IMDB and thought it may be more productive to (re)propose it here and further the discussion. This so called theory is not a prerequisite needed to understand/appreciate the “message” of the film, it is more about revealing some of its “hidden” layers.

The question of who made/sent the tapes in Haneke’s provocative ‘thriller’ Caché has produced endless debate and conjecture the world over, the following is a working through of sorts, an interpretation of the film in regards to the infamous tapes.

Approximately 10 minutes into the film we see a night shot of George and Anne’s street and apartment, a car approaches from behind the camera filming the shot and causes a large shadow of the “hidden” camera to be revealed on the left hand side bush (this shadow goes unnoticed by many or is not identified by them as a camera shadow). The camera is obviously not “hidden,” or a ‘hand-held’ camcorder one might expect a ‘voyeur’ to be using, the shadows outline clearly reveals a fully equipped production camera on a tripod with matte-box, flags and follow focus etc. At first, one is inclined to be generous and forgive the filmmaker for such a production flaw (this is not that uncommon after all), however it is a very staged (controlled) and considered shot (as Haneke is renowned for) and this “mistake” would have been seen during the blocking out of the shot, so then, it has to be deliberate, that is, a purposely staged element, or clue for the viewer.

Haneke then blatantly makes sure we know it was not a “mistake” when he shows us the camera shadow again (approx 12:40 in), we see the footage being rewound and then stop exactly at the point the camera shadow appears and then it plays back, the camera shadow (along with the childish drawing the tape came wrapped in which we saw in the previous shot) triggers an intercut image of Majid as a young boy, who startled by a presence, looks up and stares directly at the camera (“us”, George), blood coming from his mouth which he ashamedly wipes away (this use of a mindscreen technique is unusual for Haneke, he is giving us access into George’s consciousness). The meaning of this internal image is clarified later as a selfish lie George told to his parents to get rid of Majid when he was a child, this lie is the cause of his repressed guilt. Symbolically it is George’s car headlights that cause the camera shadow to appear, to be revealed to the audioviewer as he parks his car, we see him walk past and enter his apartment.

This observable fact (camera shadow) dismisses any theories of a fictional character being responsible for filming and sending the tapes, which is clearly a ‘red herring’, a generic device that Haneke has used to mislead us, and this red herring has been taken in hook, line and sinker. Why? Haneke is taking advantage of (relying on) the fact that most audioviewers have been so conditioned by mainstream cinema and literature to expect to uncover the culprit in the last reel/pages. He is knowingly playing with the audioviewers expectation of cinematic endings (particularly in regards to the thriller/mystery genre) and subverting them. Herein lies the unresolved/unexplained beauty of Caché, we are denied this traditional revelation.

It’s pretty clear that Caché is not a “mainstream” thriller, Haneke is not in the least bit interested in "who sent the tapes?”, his interest is in the emotional/psychological effect that the tapes have on the characters and the subsequent ramifications. Simply, the idea (construct) of the tapes is more ‘conceptual’, they are a device used to elicit and get the wheels in motion. It is Haneke who is sending the tapes in order to force his fictional character, Georges to confront his ‘guilty’ past (conscience) and ultimately for Haneke to address and reveal France’s “hidden” past (the horrific treatment/murder of Algerians in the Seine, that was covered up for decades).

So the (un)hidden camera shadow within the film proves that Haneke is the ‘real’ voyeur and chief manipulator outside as well as inside the film. This is backed up with the fact that the ‘taped’ images are the same as the filmed images we are watching (that is, shot with the same camera) and not a camcorder of lesser image quality that would be expected if a character within the film was in fact the culprit (otherwise how/why would they have access to professional camera equipment?)

Caché itself was shot on ‘tape’, the film was shot in high-definition video. The fact that Haneke chose to shoot Caché on tape and not film (instead of using a more obvious approach and creating a visual contrast between film and video as he did in Benny’s Video), adds a metadiegetic layer to the film and allows him to seamlessly manipulate the filmed images/tapes which are in fact one and the same. So yes, it is Haneke that it sending the tapes, on a technical/philosophical/psychological and political level. There are no real surprises there if you are familiar with Haneke’s “postmodern” cinema and the debt he owes to Godard.

Like Godard, Haneke is an “intellectual” filmmaker, that is, his films operate on numerous levels beneath the surface of the screen, which make his films all the more challenging and engaging – they are not meant to be “consumed” but considered.

There is one fact that complicates matters somewhat, the fact that Haneke’s camera shadow is captured on the second tape and thus viewed by the characters within the film. So then they too should be aware of Haneke’s camera (or at least a camera). Why do they not see it when we can clearly see it as they watch the tape back? George himself sums it up at the beginning of the film when he watches himself walk right past the camera in broad daylight to get into his car: “How come I didn’t see him? It’ll remain a mystery.” One simple answer is because they are actors playing fictional characters who are trained not to acknowledge the camera (thus breaking the cinematic illusion of reality). This paradox is open to interpretation …

Ultimately there is no “hidden” camera other than that of Haneke’s, which he in fact gives us a fleeting glimpse of … and who contributes to this glimpse? George, whose car headlights cause the camera shadow to be revealed to the viewer. This is a significant fact and one that illuminates and awakens George’s guilty past.

T

over 5 years ago

I’m kind of lost for words. I’m going to rewatch it now, this afternoon, while the snow falls. I’ll get back to you when I’m done. But I think you might be absolutely right.

D. Volunta​ryist

over 5 years ago

I read your post on IMDB and did ot like the film untill I did. Infact I love the film in this context because it is just so absurd. I even consider it some kind of strange comedy because of this. Think you.

Bobby Wise

over 5 years ago

yeah, i saw “cache” a few years ago. it was my introduction to haneke. i thought the film was unique and interesting. great analysis on it.

Antoine Doinel

over 5 years ago

anyone else seen haneke’s caché and have some thoughts and ideas?

Musycks

over 5 years ago

Antoine… I love this film, and as a result have tracked down most Haneke and have not been let down by him once.
You can see his technique develop from the early ‘Fragments of Chance’ through ‘Code Unknown’ and it reached it’s apotheosis with ‘Cache’ I think. You may well be onto something, I was just absorbed as he uncovered the layers of denial Auteils character had built,
and had accepted the tape as just a Hitchcockian ‘Mcguffin’..a device to propel the action. Given I think Haneke is the modern equivalent of a Godard and Antonioni, your theory has some appeal to me. Like those two iconoclasts Haneke will test you, he’’ll hold a shot beyond daring, so that you have to bump into the reality of thinking that it’s a long shot! In other words he’ll remind you it’s a film, and force you to react. Where others will cut, he’ll stay. Where others will move, he’ll linger. Where you think a straight line will do, he’ll find an angle. Of course he sets his stories in political frames, but reveals the public policy through the personal. Themes of belonging are a common thread… what does it mean to be a human and how and where do I fit in? His are an addictive treat, like an Altman puzzle, they eat their way inside. Cache is stunning, as is Piano Teacher and Hour of The Wolf with Isabelle Huppert. I haven’t seen his English language Funny Games yet, but I loved the original.

mathieu Picard

over 5 years ago

Antoine, I have seen caché too.. I agree with you all the way… Haneke IS the tape sender… Haneke IS the movie sender… Though I thought the historical background was a bit blurred. It ‘s just like George and Anne lived in bubble and they were caught back by both History, Childhood and an hypothetical Eye. Those three agents burst the bubble, and the couple is forced to live in the real life again or for the first time in their life. There’s still a problem cos this real life is staged, meaning maybe that there’s no real life, there are only souvenirs coming to the surface, images disturbing that surface, traumas boiling it, and the reality change of nature, finally, to be staged like it ought to be if you were in control of it. Man, I don’t know.
Personnally I prefered the three first movies he shot (in Austria) than the movies he shot in France, with french actors. Though is a cerebral moviemaker, I feel there’s no way we could compare him to g-dart, there not going in the same direction at all.
bravo. but tell me it’s not your real name, is it?

Adam Cook

-moderator-
over 5 years ago

An intelligent interpretation.

Dan Chung

over 5 years ago

This is the kind of stuff we could all use a little more of in these Forums.

Antoine Doinel

over 5 years ago

Musycks, indeed Haneke’s films are “addictive”, and Caché for me is his most addictive and fascinating film to date (followed by Code Unknown). His films leave you unsettled, agitated and reflective afterwards, which is the sign of a great film(maker) when it sparks off a cerebral reaction that keeps buzzing around in your head for a few days and forces you to confront, analyse and challange the ideas and concepts within the film. For me it totally confirms the power of “art” as a means to provoke/express/communicate personal/philosophical/socio-political … ideas.

I was going to use the term “McGuffin” but opted for red herring, I think McGuffin is more appropriate after all! haha!

Mathieu, agreed Haneke isn’t modeling himself after Godard “literally”, but he has taken many of his ideas and techniques from Godard and made them his own (as all great artists do). When i’ve heard Haneke in interviews talking about his cinematic approach/philosophy he often seems to be reiterating certain things that Godard has said before. I guess it’s more his “playfulness” that i find akin to Godard, his subverting audience expectation, his attempt to be an “honest” filmmaker, in terms of being responsible for what and how he represents his cinematic material, Haneke is constantly making the audioviewer aware that they are being manipulated by the images (sometimes subtly Code Unknown other times blatantly Funny Games), that you can’t “trust” images, that we need to be critical of them and not just accepting or being indifferent to the myriad audiovisual information that we are constantly exposed to in our advanced capitalist societies.

Ally the Manic Listmak​er

over 5 years ago

I also saw the film. I think it dragged, but that the performances with Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche’s (two of France’s finest actors) were just amazing. I didn’t read the whole analysis, bc I like short evaluations, but I am not quite interested in who sent the tape so much as the ensuing madness that follows. Maurice Bénichou as Majid was pretty excellent too. His performance was great, and I believe he was innocent, but a tortured human being.

Musycks

over 5 years ago

Antoine…… I worked my way back to an earlier example of his ‘seemingly disconnected story timeline’ technique… 71 Fragments of a Chronicle Of Chance… it’s raw and rough, but uterrly entrancing…….. he polished it up a bit for ‘Code Unknown’ and added the thriller overlay for ‘Hidden’, but he has mastered the jigsaw puzzle approach as much as Altman I think. ‘Nashville’ and ‘Short Cuts’ come to mind as the best of his films with that technique? I also love his (which Criterion has a version of) ‘3 Women’ with Duvall and Spacek… it’s so European in feel and pacing it’s a wonder it got made in the States at all!

Shinich​i

over 5 years ago

Great insight into the camera’s shadow and the flashes of Georges’ mind. Cache is a fantastic thriller. I think your interpretation of Haneke as the tape-sender is interesting and a really funny way of looking at the film. I like to see it as the tape-sender’s identity as being unimportant. Sure, when I saw it the first time all i could think about was who the tape-sender could be, but that’s just how he gets ya. I like to see the movie as character’s in a normal fictional narrative who break under the pressure of the audience. This ironic interpretation really helps to focus on the individual characters handling of this ‘eye in the sky’(or eye slightly to the left of their front door). I also love the last shot, and how Haneke decides to throw in a little treat for all the good eyes out there. The fact that Pierrot and Majid’s son talk (even though both characters should not know eachother) is fantastic, especially since it’s essentially hidden in the shot. The shot focuses on the back of some random person instead. Or maybe the person isn’t random….

Shinich​i

over 5 years ago

Ha, that was a joke. I’m sure they were random.

Jake Howell

over 5 years ago

Antoine…

I know this is a bit late, but Haneke’s interview on the Cache DVD really backs up your theory (he talks a bit about Seine, as well as the other political aspects of the film.)

Oilgun

about 5 years ago

Good analysis of the film, Antoine, I had come to a very similar conclusion after seeing the film: the director as a god, manipulating the characters he created. The shadow being the biggest clue but another one, for me, were the very photogenic drawings that George receives, which were obviously done by a graphic artist. I think that considering the context they would have been less “designed” had they been sent by a fictional character within the film.

w.lynch

about 5 years ago

As Antoine mentioned in the first post, the film (video) that Haneke is using (and that we are watching) is identical to that used for the tapes that Georges receives. Watch this film on dvd at home on a television and you, the viewer, are in the same position as Georges. I think that Haneke is (quite effectively) projecting Georges’s sense of guilt out onto the audience, and I think that the implication is that the guilt is societal more than personal. Really how responsible is Georges for Majid’s actions? Haneke then requires us to ask the same question of ourselves: how responsible is our society what has happened to Majid and his family? I think the answers to those questions are different but related.

Noseeum

-moderator-
about 5 years ago

Thank you for an exceptional post, Antoine. On a personal level, the confirmation is much appreciated.

The penultimate scene in Hidden, if my own memory serves me, is a long sequence shot of the young Majid being taken from the Laurent family home. I remember thinking, “This is where the film should end. It doesn’t matter who sent the tapes. Haneke sent the tapes. That’s it, he sent them. And I don’t care that he sent them or the impact that may have on the film’s form (in fact as has been powerfully argued here, it strengthens the form). Because this is a film that has already functioned perfectly. The tapes are irrelevant now.”

It is how Haneke evokes the feeling of an all-consuming conscience. It is our witnessing of the effect this has on George and his family. It is the shattering of ill-gotten security. A bad deed come home to roost. It is the way that a wrongdoing with serious human consequences, not authentically dealt with at the time mutates and grows into something far more dangerous and terrifying. The film for me is a masterful treatise on deceit, personal and collective guilt and the unsettling mutability of memory over time once conscience has been denied.

The final scene on the college steps is thus sublime in its assured narrative redundancy or ingenious in the passivity of its false exposition or just marvellously tongue in cheek, whichever you prefer.

Mike Spence

almost 5 years ago

I just saw this film a few days ago and it is truly exceptional. Antoine your analysis and attention to detail are impressive. Haneke is a filmmaker I must explore further. I think it’s a shame the film gets constantly compared to Hitchcock. It has it’s own unique sensibility and simply by using the master’s name you risk disappointing viewers who will be expecting something “thrilling.”

Jason Bacon

almost 5 years ago

I loved your analysis, a much deeper delving into the film and its themes and ideas than what was espoused at the time of its release, i.e. the viewer is the one who “is the camera”. I need to watch more of Haneke’s films.

Kenji

almost 5 years ago

Well thanks Antoine for that excellent and i think quite right analysis. Knowing Haneke’s liking for intellectual game-playing with the audience I fully expected that type of non-revelatory ending. But i despise Funny Games, the original (not seen the remake) which seems to want its cake and then eat it, and which i soon switched off- i must be one of those he might say didn’t need the film. I find his film-making rather cold and arrogant. So the ending of Hidden didn’t impress me, simply reinforced my negative expectations. I understood he was more interested in the psychology of the characters, and the film works well on that level, and also in raising certain issues of colonialism and race, again worthy, than in meeting the audience need for a clear solution to a puzzle. Of course this follows on from Antonioni and the reception L’Avventura got at Cannes, and also Blow-up, but i think Haneke is too interested in his own intellectual caché. Pun not originally planned. In any event, not having his intellectual capacity myself i wasn’t interested in revisiting the film to uncover the mystery. So unless you’ve heard of any other more convincing theory, i assume you’ve hit the nail on the head, Antoine. And with one of the best analyses i’ve come across on boards. A pity we don’t agree on Haneke, but the failing is probably mine. He may be a modest man i’ve misjudged and i think his politics are probably in the right place. His approach is not what i look for in films.

As for Godard, well i think he needed the warmth of Anna Karina (and the sun of Pierrot le Fou). Or maybe it’s really me who needs them.

Oh and come to think of it, i saw the camera too, it certainly wasn’t hidden. Anyway, i think i like the film a bit more now.

Bob Stutsman

almost 5 years ago

Love Antoine’s premise, but, boy is that solution hard to get on a regular sized (28") tv screen – even with the pause button in hand. So, I offer my alternative take on this. I believe that Georges’ son, Pierrot, is implicated in the sending of the tapes, working in collusion with Majid’s son. Haneke says the sender of the tapes is never solved in the film – he left it open-ended. I think we must believe Majid when he says he didn’t send the tapes. Majid’s son also said he didn’t send the tapes. This leaves either someone we haven’t seen in the film, or Georges’ own son as a possibility. We know Pierrot is upset with both his parents, as several scenes in the film with his father, and especially the scene with his mother after his ‘disappearance’, where Pierrot pushes her away when she tries to hug him demonstrate. The reason for his disappearance – when his parents believe he may be kidnapped – is never explained. We know he spent the night at a friend’s place, but we never learn why he never phoned his parents to tell them where he was. This would indicate he had something to hide that he didn’t want his parents to know. Yet, the placing of the camera, the video shot inside the car, the sheer trouble he would have getting to all the places where the videos are shot, placing a camera in Majid’s apartment – and the fact that he is only 12 years old – indicate he would, at least, need an accomplice.

Perhaps Majid’s son was the one filmming, at least for the shots in the car video and the one’s in Majid’s apartment. Maybe Georges’ son is then sending the tapes or doing the drawings, which ‘could be’ childish. This would assume that Pierrot knows the story that his father is repressing, and has been told by Majid’s son. The reason for his mistrust and obvious annoyance with his parents would then seem to be more than just pre-adolescent sulkiness. So, we have Majid’s son as the person taking the videos and Georges’ son as the sender of the tapes – which he gets from Majid’s son. Then Majid’s son isn’t lying when he says to Georges he didn’t send the tapes. Why have the meeting between the two sons are the end, cryptically shot so that – as Haneke himself says – only about 50% see it first off (as I did not)? Haneke talks about this with a grin in the interview to imply there might or might not be some reason for this meeting, as we never see the two of them together before this scene.

Anyway, yet another possibility in this endlessly fascinating film. This solution, or any solution, is co-incidental to the theme of guilt and the many ways of hiding it (hence ‘hidden’) that is the real focus of the film. Georges’ ultimate failure to fully comes to terms with his own guilt is the crux of the film – the ‘who sent the tapes’ is a Hanekean red herring – but intriguing to solve, nonetheless.

Kenji

almost 5 years ago

Well, i would think better of Haneke and the film if he sent the tape, but if he says it’s not solved in the film, then so be it. If that’s the truth then conjecture and argument over this mystery may be fun but becomes largely irrelevant (as i’d originally taken it to be), and what matters is the psychological impact and political ideas. Which is fine, but then all the critical probing of whodunnit becomes largely pointless and the film is less rich for it, i.m.o.

Now i was happily convinced by Antoine, and i’d now convinced myself it must have been blatantly obvious all along, and Haneke had been playing a game with people complicating where there is simplicity. And that reminded me of an anti-racist training exercise; 20 white people, all above average intelligence, with university degrees, in a room. The black trainer puts on the blackboard

IX

and says the challenge is to make 6 with a single stroke of the chalk crayon. Challenge failed! And the message was that what black people want is simple.

Well, that’s all gone by the board if it wasn’t Haneke.

Still, i suppose conjecturing on who might have done it, and why, even if there is no real solution, does have some merit, in bringing up details and probing relationships more closely. Which means just by having a mystery, whether solvable or red herring, will automatically give the film extra richness simply by the act of exploring the mystery. Oh i don’t know.

Kenji

almost 5 years ago

Hidden is a very well made film, with excellent performances and delicate nuances, which raises larger questions of race relations, colonialism and guilt (and as Bob says, its hiding) beyond the individual level. It captures psychological torment and uncertainty superbly.

But i have to wonder if all the time spent surmising on the whodunnit mystery- particularly if there is no solution-, makes the film any richer or better simply for having concentrated the minds of the viewers and led to countless discussions.

I have a problem with a lot of modern and conceptual art; too often a trap for the egos of art critics, who are never happier than in showing off their intellectual prowess by a multitude of readings into an artwork. When said work may turn out to have been painted by an elephant or the artist had no such meanings in mind. This has of course been repeatedly proven- to the delight unfortunately of many an obnoxious reactionary. We had Duchamp’s Fountain so many years ago, yet still critics find themselves stuck in their own conceit and notions of what is challenging, rebellious and meaningful- Tracy Emin’s bed becomes a great icon- when their thinking and awards now seem to me in a conservative rut.

This is not to criticise Haneke, a genuine thinker, with an intellect high above most artists and critics, and a valuable contributor to cinema. I thought Antoine was right to point out he’s a careful calculator, not sloppy, re the whodunnit mystery. Slavoj Zizek is an intellectual and has said he intellectualises virtually everything. I take that as a fault (i think he’s said it self-disparagingly), it can lead up very interesting avenues and give striking new insights, but his theorising on films can come unstuck when set against the down to earth approach and knowledge of David Bordwell (who concentrates on the how, which is too often neglected). I also hold dear the lesson the fox taught the little prince, one only sees clearly with the heart. And so, even if Haneke didn’t send the tapes, the anti-racist exercise i mentioned is still relevant, i think. But i value this thread, with Antoine’s superb analysis, the other clever thoughtful readings. Reactions will always be personal and subjective, (what we want from a film, our own psychological and emotional make-up) and in this case a reflection of my limitations and laziness.

Bob Stutsman

almost 5 years ago

Kenji: Perhaps the intellectual exercise of ‘who sent the tapes’ is only that, and does nothing to get at the heart of the story. Perhaps to give over-emphasis to this element of the film, is to belittle the message. Haneke is dealing here with guilt. There is Georges’ own guilt over what he has done to Majid – even though this was done when he was a small, naive, and self-centered six year old boy. Haneke made the film as a reflection on the long suppressed story of the brutal crackdown and murder by the police of up to 200 Algerian nationals in Paris during a peaceful demonstration in October 1961. Many bodies were thrown into the Seine, but the reason was fabricated by the authorities to the press. The true story of the event was suppressed until brought to light around 2000 – a shocking denial of responsibility by the French authorites. The boy Georges has wronged was the young son of two of the murdered protestors. Georges parents had offered to adopt and take care of him, until Georges lies make them decide to get rid of Majid.

By framing the situation in a personal sphere, Haneke tries to bring the lesson that past events – when buried and repressed – can come back to haunt us. Georges’ story then resonates with wider implications here, to indict the society that represses all acknowledgement of a shocking travesty. Georges has ruined Majid’s life, but he never even thinks about the event, until the tapes remind him. Georges never fully acknowledges his guilt, or the act itself that wronged the young Majid. His wife knows nothing of it, until he is forced to tell her – rationalizing and disguising his own actions. This exactly mirrors the true story of the repression of the atrocity from public view by the government and police. Georges failure to fully come to terms with his own actions, mirrors French society. Georges blames the victim, focusing on ‘who sent the tapes’.

I thought Haneke handled the situation in a very realistic way, and he has no final resolution, or even an admission of guilt by Georges. Majid kills himself in front of Georges, and even then, Georges does nothing, just walks away, not reporting the event until many hours later. Georges is confronted by Majid’s own grown son, but simply shuns him aside, never even saying he is sorry for starting the chain of events that ruined his father’s life. Georges is seen trying to rationalize and forget about the whole event by taking sleeping pills and phoning to tell his wife he is ‘tired’ and doesn’t want anyone disturbing him. Haneke shows in unnerving detail how a person like Georges – obviously very bright – can completely hide an uncomfortable situation or its result from himself. It is an all too human story – realistically told, with the mystery of the tapes never resolved – because it is incidental. As a coda, Haneke has Majid’s son meeting with Georges’ son – obviously the young son will know the story of his father’s actions and judge his father for himself. This – I am sure – is the real reason for the meeting at the end.

There are many telling details throughout the film that highlight Georges own coldness and lack of candor. He lies to his wife, his mother, his friends, his son, and ultimately, himself. He buries his own guilt so deeply that – from his point of view – it doesn’t exist. Haneke offers no moral judgments, but leaves the viewer to draw his own conclusions. Kenji, you are right that we must always look at the moral implications of a tale such as this, and not get caught in the details of ‘just who sent the tapes’. However, there is nothing wrong with the exercise as long as it doesn’t take away from the profound moral indictment that is at the heart of this film. I must see more Haneke, as this is my first exposure to this brilliant director.

Kenji

almost 5 years ago

I’m very glad there are people like you and Antoine here, who can dig into films properly. I need to watch the film again. There will be a lot i missed. I’m right with Haneke of course in indicting racism, brutality, and society’s suppression of the truth, and also admire the subtle nuances in the film. I wonder if this wider message will impact on some viewers, who may leave the film unaware of what it is really saying. Of course that may be a sign that Haneke has respect for his viewers’ abilities to understand and draw intelligent conclusions, rather than spelling things out or forcing the issue.

Bob Stutsman

almost 5 years ago

Kenji: If you listen to the interview with Haneke on the dvd (not sure if it is on all region editions – mine was the Sony Region 1), he states that he was trying to make a film where there is no clear resolution – as there would be in a ‘standard’ or Hollywood film – as he describes them. He also is trying to show the ambiguity of guilt. He explains that when Georges first lies – right at the beginning with his wife – he is caught in his own web of deceit. Haneke wants to show the complexity of this, and not simplify the issue. He also states that Georges own actions as a small child toward Majid must be understood in the context of his age – where everyone sees themselves as a ‘prince in their own world’ and Majid is an intruder. Haneke then allows the story and its consequences to unfold on their own, trying to capture the nuances of everyone’s reaction to the tapes and the story exposed. By clearly showing us that Georges is not really trying to deal with his guilt, but hide it or rationalize it – always belittling the significance of his own actions in causing it – we see just how much more complicit he is in Majid’s own tragic suicide than were he to have come clean – with himself most of all – in the beginning.

I personally found the film a bit slow and hard to get into at first, but the story grew on my as I watched and reflected. Haneke’s own explanations of why he filmed the story – based on his just becoming aware of the Algerian nationals massacre – and his own reasons for leaving so much open-ended, reveals his own deeply humanistic approach. I hope you have access to the interview, as it increased my respect for his filming technique. The film itself is a bit static, but that is just the way he does things, in this film anyway. As this is my first – but definitely not my last – Haneke I’ll leave it at that. The film grew on me the more I reflected on it – as some films do. I appreciate any filmmaker who comes at his/her subject from a moral standpoint. I knew nothing of this massacre until seeing the film.

Kenji

almost 5 years ago

Well, i didn’t know of the massacre either, but the French did some terrible things to their North African colonies (like so many imperial powers). Yes, it’s very useful comparing George’s failure over his own guilt and its actual effects to a wider picture (the oppressors so often turn things round to see themselves as somehow the victims, even Afrikaaners with Apartheid), and you + Antoine have helped me appreciate it more already. I look forward to grasping more of its subtleties, without forgetting what Woody Allen said, now which film was it, about a baseball bat being more effective on Nazis than subtle irony and wit.

I think you may find The Piano Teacher worth seeing. I just couldn’t stand Funny Games but i didn’t finish it and its horrors were a deliberate confrontation to viewers who’ve become immune to so much screen violence. Perhaps that’s more an instance of the baseball bat approach and why he had to repeat it for the US. Haneke’s cool approach in a couple of others- yes, not at all Hollywood, which is certainly good in theory- i found testing and hard to engage with. As i said this is probably more about me than the quality of the films. It’s like Cassavetes, again a contrast to Hollywood, and known for integrity, it’s just something rubs me up the wrong way while other people i respect are raving. I have a blind spot to the wonders of Brakhage, another one of integrity ploughing his own independent furrow too. These things tend to make me feel uncomfortable and worry about my shortcomings, but it’s probably as much my psychological make-up as something to rationalise as a faulty response. .

p.s i’m still interested in Haneke’s latest in what looks like a strong line-up at Cannes.

Bob Stutsman

almost 5 years ago

Thanks, Kenji: I know I was a bit apprehensive of Haneke’s reputation for graphic violence, and some of his storylines that I have read seem to confirm this. Yet, Cache I found completely tolerable as it has almost no violence except for two key scenes – much less than any standard Hollywood film. I hear you, though, on the question of sensbility and personal taste. I brought this up just a day or so ago on the Salo thread. We all have our own ‘blind spots’ when it comes to film matter and treatment that we might find offensive. I am always trying to extend my own tolerances to accept graphic images in films where I am told it is merited. Many people on this very site have extended my own. I now try to watch films without these pre-conceptions.

Still, it all does come down to what we, as film viewers, find acceptable for us. There is no shame in admitting this, I believe. Many filmmakers are either an acquired taste or have films which we just can’t really watch and appreciate – for whatever reason. That’s what makes all our tastes different. Perhaps the main thing is keeping and open mind and trying everything – at least once. Carry a baseball bat around in case you need to smash the screen if the offending work is too much for you. Oh, strike that last out! I will try The Piano Teacher. By the way, I like some Cassavetes – like Husbands – but am not a fan of everything he does, either.

Trampin

almost 5 years ago

Reading different takes on the film has significantly changed my perspective on the film. I think I respect this work much more, but I’m still not sure if I will want to watch Cache again for a while.