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Hidden by Michael Haneke, 2005Image

With a trailer this fast paced, and such an interesting premise line, one would expect a more theatrical, plot driven and entertaining movie. As a consumer, one would be disappointed. At first viewing, Cache seemed to be slow, suspenseful and utterly boring. Just as I was about to yawn out tears of sleepiness, the film surprises with the suicide of Majid, whom slices his throat open without word or warning, which is very much the climax of the film.

On the surface, Cache seems to be a suspense film, laced with elements of horror and action. The twist of it being executed in such a bleak, anti-climatic and dry style is mind numbingly horrifying, to the consumer. Upon further reading up and a second viewing, one finds that there is much more to this Parisian flick that meets the eye. Is this a thriller? Maybe: it has a thriller’s progressive unease, the suspense and pulse – but with hardly a satisfying conclusion that most movies have. And yet, it amazes one to think of it – suspenseful without background music, jump cuts, or snappy chases? And as the credits roll, the closing long shot, shows us that nothing is resolved. True to Haneke’s style, the film is dry, anti climatic and very little is done for the effect. Image

The audience do not relate nor sympathise with the main protagonist at all, the director does not do anything to make his character likable, and he is very much portrayed as cold, arrogant, rash and unattached. He grows increasingly estranged as the story progresses, and yet other characters, (save for the ones closest to him) seem to be oblivious to his aloofness. As the movie progresses, his actions seem to become more anxious, and his speculations and flashbacks become more wild, more vivid. The themes emerge here: The past, how we are always haunted by our memories, even the ones that hang on the edge of our subconscious. How far would we go to hide our dirty secrets, and how far can we be propelled by guilt?

What is hidden in this film is more than what we can expect. In fact, it is hard to even know what is hidden, where is it hidden, why is it hidden. The gripping part of the film, once you grasp the concept of it, is that you cannot stop thinking about it. The more you try to fill out parts of the narrative, the more confused you become. Like sleuths, you watch it again, trying to pick up bits of clues that you haven’t been able to catch the time before.

Haneke does not guide our eyes with the usual close ups, or rule of three shots. His use of guidance is very minimal – he captures the hidden object, or subject into the shot, and trusts the audience to be able to follow what hidden meaning is being expressed with our own eyes. Watching Hidden is like playing a very difficult game of Spot The Difference, and or I Spy.

One example is the scene where our main protagonist almost gets into a fight with a motorcyclist. The cyclist is of Native descent, and the director could not have chosen him by chance. Though there are no racist remarks left during the brawl, can we be sure that there are no undercurrents of racism being shown and remarked upon in this one scene? Can we?

The treatment of the film makes it all the more confusing. There isn’t a consistent type of lighting, though there aren’t many scenes with warm tone lighting, many of the scenes are tinted a very light blueish hue of soft lighting that cuts to harsh, shadowy compositions. The director seems to be painting a picture – one that of a harsh, bleak world with no constants.

Though the film has been commended for it’s ability to provoke thoughts from it’s audience, some reviews were negative due to that much of the film was “a metaphorical mechanism by which to pin the tail of colonial guilt on Georges and the rest of us smug bourgeois donkeys.” To which, how has the Algerian and French conflict added to the story, and how have the people of those countries been affected by them? What of their later generations?

Some other critiques found that the film was fraudulent as the trailer and the body of work was too different in style and technique. Some felt that the director was doing all he could to bore the audience and exercise their tolerance to pain. Then again, who is not to say that the empty spaces and long pauses of silence is to not interrupt the audience’s train of thought and leave space for theories?

In the end, the audience is left to conclude for themselves. Has it been to them, a reflective probing or their hidden guilts? To the ones whom may not remember, will they carry the vague stirrings of a familiar ache? And for those with none, have they been informed and educated? No one can be too sure.

Or can they?

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References:

1. 4.bp.blogspot.com. n.d.. Untitled. [online] Available at: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_EQtHBj-z3KM/TL-6BLEasSI/AAAAAAAAAXY/Nsqfpu7WGpQ/s1600/Cache.2005.720p.BluRay.x264-CiNEFiLE.mkv_snapshot_00.00.03_%5B2010.10.20_20.54.15%5D.jpg [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

2. En.wikipedia.org. 2005. Caché (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caché_(film) [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

3. IMDb. 2006. Hidden (Caché) (2005). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387898/?ref_=ttmc_mc_tt [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

4. Impawards.com. n.d.. Cache (aka Hidden): Extra Large Movie Poster Image – Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.impawards.com/2005/cache_ver2_xlg.html [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

5. Rottentomatoes.com. n.d.. Cache (Hidden). [online] Available at: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1153493-cache/ [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

6. SFGate. 2013. ‘Caché’ tries to dig into what lies beneath, but comes up empty. [online] Available at: http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/Cache-tries-to-dig-into-what-lies-beneath-but-2505820.php [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].

Bernice Lam is an aspiring writer-film maker, choral-trained singer, web comic and shorts enthusiast and amateur twitterer. You can witness her state-of-the-art shenanigans at twitter.com/be_dramarie

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