Caché is a film about an upper-class Parisian family whose lives change dramatically when they start receiving a series of mysterious tapes at their front door. The recipients of these tapes are Georges and Anne, a married couple, but these tapes are targeted specifically towards Georges who is a famous TV personality and has a show where he has a discussion with scholars and authors about their books. This is directed by Michael Haneke, and this is the fifth film I’ve seen from him and it might be his best; it is so peculiar and manages to juggle so much content with a seemingly simple plot.
Amour (2012), a film about a couple in their 80’s, was my favorite movie of his before I discovered Caché. I saw it on my flight back to Ethiopia four years ago and it really stuck with me, but I had no idea that Haneke directed Amour back then. The opening shot of that movie is of an audience watching some sort of recital and it ties neatly into the ending and I have always associated this with a similar opening scene of another movie I had seen a few days before I saw Amour, Holy Motors. Haneke likes putting subjects of his films in the frame clear for everyone to see, but they are not centered or seem unimportant like the ending of this film. It is not a twist, it might be a reveal but the extent of which is unknown and completely left to interpretation; the joy of staring at something for a whole minute and discovering the thing you are meant to see muddled in so many other things is like finding an unlikely clue, and there is a satisfaction to it but it really doesn’t answer any questions. I think Haneke’s other films are fascinating, especially Code Unknown and The Piano Teacher which are both great films. Funny Games (the 1997 Austrian version), I was both impressed and sickened by its intentions and I mostly sat through that film for Ulrich Mühe’s performance and it is quite a good film, but the American remake, literally a shot for shot remake of the original, is completely unnecessary and futile despite strong performances across the board.
Previous Haneke collaborator Juliette Binoche plays the wife, Anne, who grows concerned about these tapes that they play in their house and the first tape shows an exterior shot of their house and the message is that her husband is being watched closely. They hesitate to report this to the police at first because Georges is used to making enemies in his line of work, but it becomes apparent that they need to involve the police when Anne starts receiving anonymous phone calls and their kid is receiving the same disturbing drawings that they are. Georges played by Daniel Auteuil is being reminded of something in his past, and he is eager to hide it until he is sure about his hunch relating to the tapes. The film doesn’t crank up the tension until an interracial altercation occurs when a biker in full speed almost hits Georges out of nowhere; this has nothing to do with what is happening with the tapes, but it shows Georges’ mental state. Later on in the film he claims he hasn’t been in a fight since he was a child and usually seems to be a calm person, but he engages this biker and goes into a tirade. Somehow the events unfolding in his house are bringing up a past he thought he had buried. The more we learn about the history that Georges is referring to the less it is clear the intentions behind these tapes. One of the tapes is a footage of the house Georges grew up in and later on he visits his mother at the same house to ask about who he thinks might be responsible for the tapes from his childhood, and there are disturbing shots of his childhood memories or dreams. Another tape leads him to a low rent apartment where that someone from his childhood is living at, and Georges gets more aggressive than usual in his quest to find the culprit. He confronts this person from his childhood who the audience know for a fact is innocent simply by his earnest performance which is a strange thing to say about a performance, but it feels genuine and honest and you have absolutely no doubts. There are also family friends involved and the centerpiece lies in Georges and Anne’s marriage being tested by these events. In revisiting the past, Georges also mentions an actual Parisian history that is forgotten about which is the Parisian massacre of 1961 involving the protest of Algerians and how that ties into his childhood. That piece of history reminded me of one of the greatest movies ever made, The Battle of Algiers, which depicts too realistically how the Algerian war unfolded during which the Parisian massacre also occurred.
The film unfolds beautifully and is not determined to solve the mystery but rather make us ponder all the implications from the pieces Haneke has given us through long shots, hints of adultery and news footage that sort of relate to the historical significance of what Georges mentions. This is an astounding and impeccably made film that is unlike anything I have ever seen. That is actually a lie because the simple plot line of threatening video tapes being sent to a couple was done in David Lynch’s Lost Highway which I coincidentally watched a few days before watching Caché. The difference is Lost Highway has no plot to speak of apart from having a few amazing Lynchian sequences and a great soundtrack; it is substance wise empty. Caché on the other hand wants to say a lot and has interesting characters; it is unconventional and rooted firmly in reality, and it also has one shocking scene that absolutely blew me away. Again, pay attention to the brilliant last shot that ends the movie as casually as it began. (10/10)
Georges Laurent: Isn’t it lonely, if you can’t go out?
Georges’s Mom: Why? Are you less lonely because you can sit in the garden? Do you feel less lonely in the metro than at home? Well then! Anyway, I have my family friend… with remote control. Whenever they annoy me, I just shut them up.