The host of a popular literary TV show, Georges (Daniel Auteuil), and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) live with their teenage son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) in a Paris suburb, where they discover they are being secretly filmed. Tapes arrive on their doorstep, growing in their intrusiveness. One of the tapes leads Georges to a small flat where he finds, Majid (Maurice Binichou), a character from his childhood, who denies involvement. Georges has his guilty reasons to suspect him, but can prove nothing. The mystery unsettles and unravels his family and his life, as his secret, hidden guilt drives him to try and find answers, which may be buried in his own childhood.

Superbly performed and directed, with a perfect suspense buildup throughout.

Austrian Director, Michael Haneke's latest film is Hidden (French title, Cache) and it stars two of the stalwarts of French cinema, Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. It's a psychological thriller about a TV personality's past, coming back to haunt him.

Hidden begins with an extended static shot of a house, taken from a laneway opposite. It's the kind of shot that you'll become very used to throughout this film.

We eventually learn that it's a surveillance tape of the exterior of Georges and Anne's home. They're watching the tape and are wondering what it means.

Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), hosts a high rating TV literary show (which must be possible only in France) and is married to publisher, Anne (Juliette Binoche).
They're a wealthy couple, with a teenage son - Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) and they live an ideal modern existence.

They live in a lovely, book filled apartment, host dinners for their intellectual friends and seem satisfied. But everything starts to unravel, when they start receiving these mysterious surveillance tapes, which are accompanied by violent childlike drawings. The question of who is watching them, plagues Georges and us as viewers.

Haneke never allows us to be complacent, because we realise very quickly that as an audience, we become voyeurs as well. As our own discomfort grows, so does Georges' paranoia.

His nightmares about incidents from his childhood are exacerbated when one of the tapes shows surveillance of his boyhood home.

He visits his mother to try and make some sense of what is happening. She asks him questions about his family, but all he has to say is that they're all very busy.

Eventually, Georges enquiries leads him to Majid (Maurice Benichou), an Algerian who Georges betrayed when they were young children, just after Majid's parents were killed in the 1961 massacre of Algerians under the hands of the French police. The incident was only officially recognised in France, in 1999.

Majid and Georges are opposites, he's softly spoken and gentle, telling Georges he has nothing to do with the tapes or the drawings, while Georges is threatening and threatened. He becomes distrusting and secretive, lying to his wife. As the tapes continue to arrive, the underlying dysfunction behind this perfect family emerges.

Hidden is an exquisitely creepy experience and Haneke is a master of suspense. Who is watching them? Well the anticipation is gripping. In Haneke's world - no one is innocent and there are no definitive answers.

I loved the growing sense of foreboding that he creates through extended still shots, sparse dialogue and practically no music. It's so spare - it's frustrating. But it works because you're forced to reflect on what is happening, who is responsible, who is guilty and what exactly are they guilty of?

Even weeks after seeing the film, I am still scratching my head. I had similar response after seeing Haneke's earlier film, the psychologically sadistic and excellent, The Piano Teacher.

The performances from Binoche and Auteuil are compelling, brilliantly portraying a couple on the brink, yet who still keep up appearances for their middle class friends. Their denial runs parallel with Haneke's other big question, about what he calls, "willful amnesia". Georges is unable to accept his own past as an abuser and instead see himself only as a victim.

He's a metaphor for a society that refuses to accept responsibility for past wrongs or to even acknowledge what is happening around them.
This is illustrated in one beautifully ironic scene where Georges and Anne argue, while the TV in the background, placed between the couple, shows scenes of fighting in the Middle East.

The film is a persuasive response to France's denial of their Algerian past and about the widespread ignorance about people suffering from economic hardship and racism.
This is an issue that sure has a lot of currency, with the real life riots exploding in the suburbs of France last year.

There are no easy answers to Hidden, as its title suggests, it is a superb conundrum! And all I can say is that the first shot - is just as important as the last. So pay close attention.



Watch 'Hidden [Caché]'

Tuesday 22 June, 9:35pm on SBS World Movies (streaming after broadcast at SBS On Demand)
Wednesday 23 June, 11:35pm on SBS World Movies

Austria, France, 2005
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Thriller
Language: French
Director: Michael Haneke
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Annie Girardot, Maurice Bénichou, Bernard Le Coq

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