Hidden

HiddenHidden (Caché): France, 123 Minutes, Rating: MA15+

Dir: Michael Haneke, Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou

 

Hidden (Caché) is a remarkable film about voyeurism, secrets and racism for which Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke received the award for Best Director at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

 

Daniel Auteuil, who is known to Australian audiences for his role as François Pignon in The Closet (Le Placard) plays Georges Laurent, the host of a popular French literary television program whose comfortable Parisian family life is shaken when he starts receiving videotapes of his home under surveillance. Georges and wife Anne (Juliette Binoche, Chocolat, Three Colours: Blue, The English Patient) initially suspect the tapes are the work of an overeager fan of Georges’ show. However, as the tapes slowly become more personal, Georges is forced to confront events from his past that he had long ago buried deep within himself.

 

Central to Hidden’s plot are the themes of truth and lies, secrets and guilt. Superficially, the Laurent family are a typical French middle-class family. Georges and Anne host dinner parties and schoolboy Pierrot Laurent is supported by his parents at swim meets. The arrival of the mysterious tapes force Georges to reluctantly reveal the events of his past to his wife, a past that he has kept secret from her for many years. As Haneke gradually exposes more of Georges’ life through dream sequences we learn that he has been living with secrets and guilt for most of his life, and that his ‘typical’ family is not so ideal.

 

Haneke invites audiences to participate in Hidden through his ingenious employment of different cinematography techniques. The camera is a major character in Hidden. Scenes play out for long periods of time before being revealed as tapes playing on the Laurents’ television, which will suddenly fast forward or pause. Audience members are tricked into believing they are watching the film when in fact they are participating in the film by seeing these tapes through the eyes of Georges and Anne. Haneke uses almost identical camera techniques and positions to depict the action of the film as the ‘stalker’ uses to terrorise the Laurents. As such, audience members can never be certain that what they are watching is the ‘truth’ and the result is a highly unsettling cinema viewing experience.

 

Hidden is a striking technical film. The high definition video cinematography is stark, and colours are drab; some camera shots are extremely long in duration, the audio is a cacophony of jarring sounds, and there is no music on the soundtrack, including during the opening and closing credit sequences. Yet Hidden is an incredibly cinematic film, and avoids many of the traps that turn shot-on-video features into films that smack of amateurism. Hidden feels simultaneously authentic and surreal, and some scenes are quite terrifying in the suspense created.

 

There are intense racial tensions that lie within Hidden’s narrative. Haneke’s film is at once an exploration of Georges’ personal guilt as well as the racial discrimination that is entrenched within French society towards colonial immigrants. Georges’ story is emblematic of the race-relations of the wealthy French middle class, who prefer to shut themselves off from the problems facing poor immigrants and hide in their dinner party, literary, and café conversations. In an early scene Georges rebukes a black cyclist for not watching and almost colliding with Anne and himself. An argument ensues and the cyclist points out that Georges should have also looked before stepping into the street. Anne acts as mediator, calming the two men and telling them to forget about it. The scene is a portent for viewers of what is to come, and hints at the violent consequences of ignoring racial conflict rather than seeking solutions.

 

Hidden is certainly not a film that will suit everyone’s tastes. Haneke’s direction is stripped back and intense and the narrative evolves slowly. Audiences must be prepared to interact with this film in order to fully appreciate it. This is a film that invites examination, and challenges viewers not to accept perceived personal and societal ‘truths’ at face value.

 

 

 

 

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