Cache (2006) / Drama-Mystery
aka Hidden

MPAA Rated: R for brief strong violence and language
Running Time: 117 min.

Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou, Lester Makedonsky, Daniel Duval, Nathalie Richard, Walid Afkir, Annie Girardot, Bernard Le Coq
Director: Michael Haneke
Screenplay: Michael Haneke
Review published July 1, 2006

Michael Haneke's (The Piano Teacher, Funny Games) acclaimed film, Cache, is more of a film about an abstract concept rather than about a particular thing or event.  It's about how we all carry things we have chosen to bury deep within our subconscious, usually feelings of guilt or shame.  In order to stay functional as human beings, we choose to adopt the semblance of normality and outward ignorance, resolved to never speak of the actions which may have caused the guilt to others, or sometimes even to deny our complicity in the acts to ourselves.  These hidden thoughts are a part of us, nevertheless, making us who we are, just as much as those aspects about ourselves we willingly share with others.

However, there are times when the secrets of our past begin to surface, forcing us to finally deal with them, and we can choose to accept them, or continue to lie about them, especially to others.  Eventually the lies and sins committed to keep secrets from being unearthed become even more severe than the original act itself, and when the problem won't seem to go away, it becomes necessary to either provide full disclosure to all involved or, when that proves too much, silence the ones with the knowledge. 

In the film, there is a secret, which comes to the surface in the form of videotapes of unknown origin that begin arriving at the home of Georges (Auteuil, Apres Vous) and Anne Laurent (Binoche, Jet Lag), at first showing little more than the view of their apartment from outside, then progressing to show Georges' family home.  Along with the tapes come pictures appearing to be of childlike origin, depicting a face with blood emanating from it, and later, postcards with the image are sent to Georges' work and his son's school.  Georges doesn't know who is sending the tapes, and the police offer no help, so he must get to the bottom of it on his own.  Could events that happened over forty years ago finally have come back to haunt him?

While I realize that Cache is considered a work of artistic and political significance, were someone to remove the subtext and follow it as a straightforward story, this is a slow and somber thriller, perhaps too slow for many viewers, uncomfortably silent at times (there is no score to the film).  There are moments when it does become absorbing, particularly when dealing with the main mystery of the tapes and the message behind them.  Haneke has chosen to film on high-def cameras, giving it a very realistic feel, blending in perfectly with the style and quality of the videotapes themselves. 

The film does, in a very subtle way, touch on larger themes, particularly on the plight of the Algerians that came to France during the Algerian War of Independence, many of whom were killed during an attack by police stemming from a demonstration in Paris which took place on October 17, 1961.  The event was mostly downplayed by the press of the time, and, by and large, not talked about for many years afterward, with the French government not officially acknowledging that it took place until 1998.  When a memorial plaque commemorating the event was finally unveiled in 2001, it would be a surprise to many Parisians that such a thing had actually occurred without their knowledge, buried for decades in the most secret recesses of the city's subconscious.

Just as people can have secrets hidden that they wish to suppress, so can politicians, the police, and indeed, entire nations.  Cache isn't just about one man's attempts to keep, or even face up to, a secret, but about a universal truth about human nature, to try to pretend certain events never actually happened, and the ways the guilt can manifest itself in the psyche of the people, even if they never talk about it openly.  This message will either resonate with viewers, or it won't.  Like any piece of art, you can find meaning in it or not, and if you do, you'll either be affected by it, or shrug and be about your merry way. 

Cache isn't entertaining in a traditional sense, but aspects of it are fascinating.  However, just because it is able to reveal a certain truth about us as a people or as a world community, the fact remains that, as a story, it isn't always engaging or as meaningful as the themes.  In the end, I appreciated the introspection the film generates, but my attention did waver throughout, and the thought of a repeat viewing doesn't sit too well with me.  Haneke shows us events and allows us to draw our own conclusions, but it can be still be a frustrating experience that such a profound and gripping idea for a film would play out as little more than a melancholy musing.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo