–VAGUELY CONTAINS SPOILERS —
Michael Haneke’s latest film, Cache (Hidden), is a masterpiece. As a story, in its construction, as well as its substance. True to Hitchockian form, this thriller is a crime film in which the suspense builds around our cast’s relationships, and not the action of the crime itself. We’re not here to find out what happened, nor really to catch who, but why. Answering that question is possible only if we go into our characters’ personal history.
Which is where Haneke then makes clear that the crime, the pursuit, the involvement of media, justice, and family in the context of contemporary France (which is to say there are many signs, many conversations, many theories to take the place of a gun). This is an allegorical history and observation of French colonialism, Muslims and immigrants, human respect, and what in Germany was called “Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit”, or working through the past.
As he has in past films, Haneke shows that what interests him is the state of society. He observes its well-being through human interest stories, often using the intersection as a means of creating tension-filled story points. Two lives, two days, two histories or destinies… it takes only two to produce the juxtaposition, incompatibility, tension or conflict that moves a narrative forward.
In Cache, his use of video to refer to the mass media, as well as to create a “third person,” an invisible third, or missing third, is genius. Kieslowski placed a Jesus figure in his Decalogues as a witness to daily inhumanities and as a call to morality. Haneke has done a similar thing, but one step further. And this is where he gets particularly Hitchockian: he places the viewer in the POV of an absent witness. A POV thought to relate to the crime at hand. Or better, capable of explaining the crime at hand. The audience does not see the crime (that characters miss seeing themselves, as in Hitchcock), rather the audience is witness to a crime the character attempts to deny involvement in.
The audience is witness to the explanations, the tears and despair, and the coldness of a relationship between one whose home was lived in, and one who is taken from home. Motionless shots of each home bracket the film’s narrative, from present to the past, because there are people in France whose home does not feel like it. If we want respect in social relations between the ex-colonizers and the ex-colonized (France and N Africa) then all must feel as if they live in the same home. A relative is a relative. Where there are people related, relatively, there could be the relations of relatives.