Shown at the Vancouver Film Festival, Austrian director Michael Haneke's spine-tingling Hitchcock-like thriller, Cache is a metaphor for the denial of French responsibility for the treatment of Algerians in its colonial past and its current treatment of immigrants. The first five minutes of Caché shows a placid street scene outside of a suburban Parisian home with people coming and going long into the night. It is not until several minutes into the film, however, that we realize we are watching videotape sent by unknown persons to the family of Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil). The tape is wrapped in a drawing showing blood coming out of the side of the mouth of a young boy
Haneke is masterful in showing the murk that is hidden beneath the outward calm of our comfortable middle-class lives, a recurring theme in many of his films. Here, Georges is the host of a literary TV talk show and his wife Anne (Juliet Binoche) works at a publishing house. Their complacent lives are filled with dinner parties, intellectual conversations, and general indifference to the outside world, a world that only intrudes when the TV news tries to get their diverted attention. Georges is disturbed by the tape, even more so than Anne, but he only contacts the police after a second tape shows up. Predictably, the police refuse to do anything unless the family is under direct attack. The mystery of who sent the tapes increases as Haneke builds an unrelenting atmosphere of imminent danger in a low-key manner without the use of foreboding music or Twilight Zone effects.
As nerves become frayed, tension erupts between husband and wife and explodes into acrimony when their twelve-year old son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky), stays at a friend's house all night without letting them know, bringing up fears that he has been kidnapped by the stalkers. Soon, another tape reveals a stone farmhouse where Georges grew up and where his invalid mother still resides. His visit with his mother (Annie Girardot) brings back long buried memories and Georges is forced to confront a terrible secret hidden since he was six years old. He tells Anne that he has a hunch who is behind the threatening tapes but refuses to tell her who he is thinking of, prompting her to deplore the lack of trust in their relationship.
He visits an Algerian man named Majid (Maurice Bénichou) whose parents worked for Georges' family during the French colonial repression in Algeria in the 1960s but Majid, unruffled by the accusation, denies having anything to do with the tapes. The full extent of Georges' treatment of Majid when they were both children slowly begins to emerge, however, leading to a shocking if somewhat elusive conclusion. Though the whodunit is actually less important than its implications, Caché is not a polemic or a political tome. It is a superbly crafted, entertaining, and challenging film that makes us painfully aware of the consequences of the lack of individual responsibility and creepy paranoia of modern life and of Western arrogance toward people considered inferior. It is Haneke's most accessible and enduring achievement.
©2005 Howard Schumann