Monday, September 17, 2007
A meditation on guilt and insecurity in the guise of thriller (Film - Caché)
Michael Haneke's film Caché with Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, released in 2005, is the latest film in our effort to catch up with movies we missed by borrowing them from the library. As I've mentioned before, I love French film - in fact I really love the place the arts are given in French culture. Their writing, film, music, even their television is considered a serious way to express the ideas running through their culture. A movie is a way to have a dialogue, not merely a commodity produced to make money, win admiration, or decorate our leisure time (although they make some candy films too). The quality of the artistry and the ideas expressed by it are both endlessly discussed in respected magazines and television talk shows. It's a culture I feel I really fit into better than my own, in some ways. I love the language, the wine and the food and the value the enjoyment of simple sustenance has in their culture, and I cannot get enough of Paris. Anyway... I'm a fan, so part of my response to French films is probably living out a 2-hour fantasy of being in France.
I had not watched this film when it came out because I assumed it would be a more commercial venture, given the casting, I'm such a snob. But that was not so. The casting of two of France's super-stars does not compromise the film in any way, they turn in committed, relaxed, and multi-layered performances. I also enjoyed the fact that Binoche, known not only for her acting but also for her physical beauty, is middle aged now and the film revels in her current beauty as a forty-something actress as opposed to casting someone younger or trying to disguise who she has become. The lens adores her and she remains as open as ever, never hiding. The film's setting is the upper middle class life of a Parisian couple George and Anne - book critic and publisher - so I have everything to keep me happy - books and Paris! The couple begin receiving several-hour-long videos of their house, focused on their front door, taken with a hidden camera. Later those videos venture further afield and include George's childhood home. They are never able to see the photographer and the feeling of being watched increasingly invades their sense of safety for themselves and their son, Peirrot. I don't want to say any more about the film's plot because the film is driven by the tension is slowly stirs up - some of it insidiously and some of it suddenly and shockingly. I admired that this film worked not only on the level of a creepy thriller - some people are in danger and as the viewer I seem to share in this danger - but it also worked on a philosophical, exploring the ideas of culpability and political insecurity. It was a study of how the assumptions that ground individuals or political entities can be disturbed and what kind of behavior can result given our impulses to defend. But here we don't know the face of the attacker for sure, so what to attack is in question. There is another theme of guilt on a personal or a national level, but I will ruin the experience of this film by discussing it too much, I recommend seeing it when you're in the mood for a thoughtful film dressed like a thriller.