Day 276: Caché (aka. Hidden) 2005

Day 276

1 April 2018   11.57pm

Caché (aka. Hidden)   2005

A Michael Haneke Film

This film written and directed by Michael Haneke (who also wrote the intriguing Funny Games [2007] with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth which I thought was very moody and similarly offbeat) is unusual because it doesn’t offer an answer to the obvious question that the film asks. There’s no solution. Just information which we can interpret as we choose.

On one level it is frustrating because it sets itself up as a thriller, or a mystery, opens several cans of worms and then leaves it all hanging, unresolved, at the end. On another level, it is not the role or the requirement or even the intention of every film to give the audience answers. Non-English-speaking filmmaking has show me, twenty, thirty, forty times, over the last 9 months that it is far more of an English-speaking film expectation that leads American and British filmmakers to resolve things, to reconcile things and to provide endings which leave the viewer with a calming sense of justice winning over injustice. Hollywood does it very well, and sometimes tackles tricky subjects like Watergate, by showing that Nixon needed to be judged for what he did wrong. But it still offers the usual film resolution, made by writer, directors and producers working from the same playbook.

Some Hollywood films have taken it a step further than All the President’s Men (1976) and I cite The Parallax View (1974), a bold – and unsatisfying, because justice isn’t done – ending by Alan J Pakula and Warren Beatty (which I loved as an eleven-year old, despite having to confirm that what I thought happened at the end actually did happen – see it! It’s a classic!); Absence of Malice (1981), another bold ending, this time by Sydney Pollack; and The Conversation (1974), equally innovative, this time by Francis Coppola. It’s a willingness to draw a picture or write a story where things go wrong and peoples lives (often) can’t be restored or fixed despite the best intentions, or changed intentions, of one or more of the characters in the film.

Hidden does this, too. It offers a few situations, offers a few theories and leaves it unresolved. It’s the Psycho (1960) solution which isn’t really a solution – because it is a clever trick conceived by the author – and leaves everything open for the (inferior – when aren’t they?) sequels which followed (many years later). Norman Bates wasn’t guilty of the murder despite the fact that Anthony Perkins was, in every sense.

Naturally, lots of films aren’t clear-cut when they finish. Little, teasing, elements are hinted at but left unresolved. The two characters most likely to be guilty of sending the videos and the drawings are Majid and his son. But they convincingly deny it. Particularly the father. And how would the son have so much information about minor details that only the young boys, Majid and Georges, would know about? The fact that the drawings are so specific to incidents which Georges recalls about when he and Majid were boys indicates it was Majid, committing an act of revenge, harboured for many decades, which also would cause terrible pain on his own son; or that none of it is real – like Norman Bates. It is and it isn’t Majid who is terrorizing Anne , Georges and Pierrot Laurent. It is and it isn’t real. Georges is and isn’t the person behind the psychological intimidation of his own family.

There are no answers to this. Unlike Psycho which resolves all the questions with a clever twist, Hidden doesn’t. And the reason why I know none of the explanations which the viewer is teased with are true because of the title. The answer to who is responsible for the terrorism is, We’ll never know because Haneke intended it would always remain hidden. The clue which supports this theory is the title of the film.

More likely, is that the terrorism occurs within Georges Laurent’s own mind, extrapolated from a guilt of something he did wrong, which he hid within his own being for so many years, which one day started to emerge from where it was buried. Haneke uses formulaic plot devices to open up the question of whether someone could be guilty, offers a Psycho-like death (astoundingly spectacular), and blurs the line between what is true in Georges’ mind and what is true in Georges’ reality.

A clever film made up of some pretty funny games.