Thursday, June 22, 2006


I've lately been in mind of Alfred Hitchcock's influence on current directors, particularly with regard to HIDDEN/CACHE'.

SPOILER ALERT – If you haven't seen the movie yet, you may want to skip this post!!

The film centers around an educated, successful Parisian family, the father of which, Georges Laurent, (Daniel Auteuil) is plagued with guilt over a sin he committed when he was six years old. His parents had adopted an Algerian boy, and, in his jealousy, he framed him for some behaviors that resulted in the boy's being ousted from the family and sent to an orphanage. Thus, he carried this personal guilt all his life, and the episode remains a dark spot on the
family. The boy came to live with them in 1961 when Parisians, in a spasm of racial intolerance, massacred hundreds of Algerians, including the boy's parents. This real event remains a black spot on the conscience of postcolonial Paris in the movie – and, apparently, in real life.

On the Ken Mogg's MacGuffin site, Ken pointed out certain Hitchcockian touches, such as the shared guilt that seems to be "in the air" of CACHE. (Think, in a similar way about Rupert's (James Stewart's) guilt in ROPE for promotoing a Nietzchean view of life and death that indicted both Nazism and the American retaliation to it.)

That theme of shared guilt is reinforced by director Michael Haneke's use of film WITHIN the film to tell the story. Our perception of reality is fiddled with throughout the film. For instance, the opening scene is a stationary shot of the protagonist's house over upon which the opening credits are flashed. The story begins when it is revealed that the house we've been watching is actually a videotape of a house. In other words, like a Chinese box-within-a-box, we are watching a movie of a movie. (C.f. Antonioni's BLOW UP.)

That trick also sets the tone for what follows: A couple has been receiving a series of anonymously recorded videotapes that depict parts of their private lives to which no one should be privy. As a result, this family is forced to face realities about themselves by viewing movies of themselves.

The camera operator behind these mysterious videos is more than a voyeur. He or she is an omnipresent observer. That hidden camera is apparently supernaturally present – it records Laurent's "reunion" with his one-time foster brother at short range, yet undetected, as if the camera were invisible. The suggestion is that the camera is God, or, at least, a concept, such as Laurent's conscience.

This ties in with several scenes in which military scenes depicted on TV news are foregrounded, and, at least on one occasion, fill the screen as if the movie itself has shifted location to somewhere in the Middle East. The director repeats his visual trick from the beginning of the film, but this time we are prepared and not not so easily duped. And the point is fired home that all of us have a sharing in a funk of guilt that stretches beyond Laurent's personal drama, beyond Paris, Algeria to embrace the planet.

The final scene, a stationery shot of Laurent's son's school, leaves us with the notion that the camera is still running... observing... recording.

I also see shades of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) in here. Rather arrogantly, Laurent tries to control the flow of information from his wife and eschews involvement with the police. This reminds me of Dr. Ben McKenna's (James Stewart) domineering behavior. The way the couple in CACHE deal with their threat, and the strain it places on their marriage is similar to TMWKTM as well.

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