Released 2005. Director: Michael Heneke
YOU’RE BEING WATCHED. YOU RECEIVE VIDEOTAPES showing you entering and leaving your home. Then you receive cryptic, sinister drawings. Caché is a thriller behaving like a creepy neighbour who keeps looking out the window at you, except that the stalker here is faceless. Tension level is constantly high, not least because the story enslaves us psychologically but it refuses to shed light on answers.
Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche play Georges and Anne, a successful middle-class couple in Paris. He hosts a TV show and she works in publishing. But their tranquil lifestyle is shattered by the mysterious and distressing surveillance. As their life unravels, secrets of the past emerge out of the shadows.
Tracing back to Georges’ childhood and making oblique references to France and its former colony Algeria, Cache opens the door for the sins of the past to catch up with an unsuspecting generation.
Superbly directed and paced like a tightly-wound spring threatening to uncoil, complemented with top-notch acting against a spine-tingling atmosphere, Caché is a perplexing masterpiece from start to finish. The opening scene is a stationary shot of a residential side street which remains onscreen for several minutes. Nothing significant seems to be happening but in hindsight, it may contain some vital clues.
In the movie’s final scene, people are moving about on the steps outside a school. Look carefully to find two characters talking among the crowd. There’s no clear sense of what is really happening but their meeting deepens the enigma.
Somewhere in between, there’s a violent scene that is so unexpected it is the most shocking moment in any movie this year. Michael Haneke keeps his camera stationary to let us absorb and mentally process the grisly event.
Indeed, he keeps a lot of his scenes locked-on and the camera angle unchanged for long stretches of time. There’s much to read in his scene composition, meaning to be deduced. Take the final scene, which strongly suggests that while the father draws the curtain and takes an afternoon nap, his own history has been passed on to the next generation.
In the end, the videotape mystery isn’t solved. We are left hanging with no resolution or closure. By not disclosing the identity of the perpetrator, the complexity is enriched, widening the circle of suspicion and perpetuating the fear. Caché cleverly hides the who in a whodunit.