Like all challenging films, Caché (Hidden) divides audiences. But you'll never forget the experience of watching it, especially its final, shocking sequence.
Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke tells the taut, mysterious tale of Georges (Daniel Auteuil), a TV literary critic, and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), a successful publisher who discovers they're being watched via a series of videotapes delivered to their upscale Paris home. What begins as a thriller involving harassment evolves into a family history drama. Steadily, Georges pieces together childhood memories and comes to realize the reasoning behind his tormenters.
Caché is the perfect film, the best movie yet from one of Europe's master filmmakers — as long as one values ambiguity and believes in quiet, almost solemn thrills. Less melodramatic than his kinky adaptation of German author Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher and more straightforward than his last film, the apocalypse drama Time of the Wolf, Haneke combines tension and subtlety in unimaginable ways in Caché. It's amazing how a quiet film can be so frightening.
Binoche is grounded as the wife convinced that her husband has something to do with the person spying on their family. She's prepared to lay blame at his feet, if it will make the voyeurism go away.
Auteuil perfectly captures the state of shock and frustration that a man of his resources, community standing and intelligence would be incapable of stopping the harassment overtaking his life. He's the face of the upper-middle-class: soft in the middle and comfortable in his routine of cocktail chatter, art-house movie-watching and literary debates. He has everything he wants, and it's shocking to see how easily it falls apart.
Maurice Bénichou matches his famous co-stars with a simmering performance as the tormenter with a past closely connected to Georges. Bénichou stands out in Caché, which is remarkable when you consider the talent of his acclaimed co-stars.
Colonial guilt is distinct to French culture, and the violent outcome of an infamous 1961 protest against France's occupation of Algeria proves important to Georges' life and the story of Caché. But the guilt of the wealthy, the comfortable haves who must rationalize the gaps between their lives and the across-town lives of the have-nots, is a universal theme.
Caché might be French with English subtitles, but its story speaks directly to the most frequent patrons of art-house theaters in the United States. Caché is about them and their false sense of security, which makes its surprise conclusion more powerful and even more difficult to swallow. Grade: A