‘I never like to interpret myself,’ veteran filmmaker Michael Haneke announces. His latest work, Caché (Hidden) proves to be no exception to his personal rule: the film is characteristically open-ended and snakily avoids cast iron interpretation in much the same way that its director and writer evades defining or explaining away his work. ‘And yes, I am aware of the frustration that causes – it allows me to truly involve the audience in the film’, 63 year old Haneke goes on. Involving his work certainly is – with a career that spans four decades, (The Piano Teacher, Code Unknown, Funny Games) to mention but a few, he has carved a reputation for himself as one of the great auteurs of modern European cinema, recognised last summer at Cannes, picking up the Best Director award for this, his most recent work.
Caché tells the story of the kind of the bourgeois nuclear family that Haneke is so frequently drawn to – professional parents (in this case Anne, a publisher, played by Juliette Binoche and Georges, a TV cultural commentator played by Daniel Auteuil), and their 12 year old son, Pierrot. Their middle class life is derailed by the arrival on their doormat of video tapes showing their daily lives – someone is watching. Binoche as Anne is wonderfully sympathetic and frustrated, fearing for the safety of her family, whilst her husband Georges becomes increasingly angry, and increasingly certain that he knows the culprit. The drama which unfolds reveals both an ugly latent racism traceable back to the Algerian conflict of the 60s and a disruptive distrust between Anne and Georges which threatens to destroy their domestic bliss.
Haneke plays down the inspiration of a surveillance culture and instead concerns himself with addressing our trust in the truth as presented through the media, ‘there’s a pervasive delusion that we know more than we really do, we’re open to manipulation and I want to reflect that danger.’ The thrilling and disturbing drama which is set in motion by the arrival of the videos makes that danger a haunting central conceit, and one which provokes more questions than it provides answers; ‘when a film answers the questions that it raises, well, the work ends there’, says Haneke. Whilst the answers to his questions may remain hidden, they are certainly still worth pursuing.