By Yahia EL-Tanani.
Are you one of those people that enjoy trying to solve riddles and piece together puzzles? Me too! That’s why you might just love uncovering the mysteries and messages in this layered film. Haneke teaches us more about human complexity and hence our own humanity in the powerful Hidden (caché). When Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne Laurent (Juliette Binoche) a typical, middle-class married couple begin to receive shady cassette tapes suggesting they are being followed; we the audience follow their journey on investigating who is behind all this and of course the motive. Haneke progressively demands that we deduce the human truths from this agonizing mystery drama.
All over, I feel that this film is a positive experience. It’s rich, honest and very gripping. It’s not a juvenile Hollywood blockbuster that overindulges the audience purely for entertainment. Rather, the film is a more mature piece that respects the audience as intellectual beings who can come to their own conclusions. Haneke employs this masterfully here and continually provides the audience with just the right amount of information to keep them thinking. It is the mark of truly sophisticated filmmaking that Haneke is patient enough to trust the audience, he knows slow and steady wins the race.
The main character Georges appears to be a normal hard-working family man. However, like most people we meet for the first time in life, we only know what we see. It takes something significant similar to what happens in the film for us to gain insights into the enigmatic and deep below-the-surface parts of Georges (no doubt a reflection of our own humanity). All the other characters almost encircle Georges keeping all eyes on him. They all have depth coupled with their own ambiguities that they protect even from their loved ones. The audience does not know everything about any of the characters, mirroring our relationships with one another in society. All we know about the characters is what we see and the socio-political subtext they live in. Through the characters Haneke silently exposes society.
What’s more, something Haneke does so well is making the characters undeniably real and ultimately a consideration of who we are as human beings in today’s society. The film does not use extra buttery lines of dialogue that are so often used in modern film. Haneke does the intangibles, the in-betweens, the type of dialogue that mirrors that critical real-life experience. The dialogue is the fundamental story telling vehicle in this film. Through the interactions and conversation of one character with the next we begin to understand more about the plot and the characters themselves. Haneke certainly holds onto uncertainty and never gives enough away. But this keeps the audience thinking, engaged and coming to our own conclusions. The majority of the dialogue between the characters are basic questions and answers showing that they are just as uncertain as us. This creates a mutual relationship between the characters and the audience.
This mutualism is further supported by the camera movement. There is no fancy cinematography or Hollywood-esque colour grading. The cinematography bleeds authenticity and life. The camera movement follows the characters in a basic manner staying still and moving left or right, no tilts or twists. This along with some bold drawn out static shots makes us read the film like a visual book. We only see what the characters see. Consequently, this marries our emotions with those of the characters. When the characters are stressed, we are stressed. When they feel, we the audience simultaneously feel.
On the other hand, I can’t help but feel there is a deprivation of music in the film. Nevertheless, Haneke may have wanted this in order to render a sincerely surreal experience, which makes the scarcity understandable. This does however cripple me with the “what if”. Had Haneke been more daring with his music choice could it have actively provided more emotional charge and given another dimension of perplexity to the story?
In general, this film is exquisitely well-paced and explores the themes of denial, guilt and forgiveness by exploiting the purely human quality of fearing the unknown. It wouldn’t be a Hidden review without mentioning that following along this nerve-racking plot is made rewarding by the teasing final shot. Well worth a watch if you’re looking for a film to stimulate you in the most cerebral, genuine fashion.
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