Caché, 2005

Michael Haneke’s latest offering, Caché brilliantly converges towards early Harun Farocki themes of surveillance and terrorism though images while retaining his own recurring themes on the abstraction of videoimage representation (as in The Seventh Continent), the desensitization of images (as in Benny’s Video), and the breakdown of (social) order as a consequence of failed communication (as in Code Inconnu) to create a challenging and provocative examination of guilt, complacency, and reckoning. From the opening stationary image of a quiet suburban neighborhood that begins to display video tracking marks, revealing the surveillance nature of the recorded image (as Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) study the anonymously recorded tape of the front of their house for clues on its origin), Haneke presents a literal self-projection of the characters’ actions (and implicitly, our own) that serves as a mirror to examine human conscience and collective responsibility. Moreover, as the frequency and unsettling specificity of the mysterious video correspondence escalates to include child-like, crudely drawn images of seemingly intimate knowledge from incidents from Georges’ childhood – in particular, his one-sided rivalry with his Algerian “almost” brother, Majid (Maurice Benichou) for his parents’ attention – the tone soberingly shifts from sinister mystery and critical self-assessment (and national, as in the case of the massacre of Algerian residents by French authorities in 1961) to one of exposing the baseness of instinctual human behavior that manifests in destructive, inhuman acts of crippling paranoia, racism, misdirected blind aggression (as in the case of the couple’s near collision with a cyclist on a one-way road, an episode that hauntingly recalls the catalytic encounter of Code Inconnu), and self-righteous retaliation. The film’s penultimate sequence of Georges’ surveillance-like, regressive dream into the pivotal episode that lies at the core of his childhood guilt, captured from a stationary, medium shot camera recalls the framing of the opening sequence (as well as prefigures the concluding sequence), establishing a connection between the two visually innocuous – but implicitly traumatic images: an omniscient view, not from a distant, God’s eye perspective, but from an equally inescapable perspective of personal conscience.

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