This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Rod Sedgwick’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
“I like the multiplicity of books, because each book is different in the mind of each reader. It's the same with this film - if 300 people are in a cinema watching it, they will all see a different film, so in a way there are thousands of different versions of "Caché (Hidden)". The point being that, despite what TV shows us, and what the news stories tell us, there is never just one truth, there is only personal truth.”
Michael Haneke's Caché is the true definition of a film that requires multiple viewings to fully grasp and appreciate. Upon first viewing of the film one tends to become so swept up in the mystery of trying to decipher who is sending the tapes and drawings, that you most likely missed some obvious and blatant clues that the cheeky auteur has littered throughout. In my interpretation the mystery at play is pure 'maguffin' or a 'red herring' and is deliberately inserted by the Haneke himself to create the conflict and stir up the drama and cause the Laurents to unravel and reveal 'hidden' guilt. Haneke is more interested in the psychological ramifications that result in the mysterious recordings, more so than where they came from and therefore uses the tapes as weapons of familial destruction, eroding and unravelling the relationships inside the Laurent household. Many deduce that the two sons were in on the whole thing and that a trail of sorts can be traced throughout the film revealing their complicity, which might be a completely acceptable way to interpret the film, but doesn't sit right for me.
So it is interesting to notice the following details upon a subsequent viewing:
*The opening scene, and all the footage - are of the same recording quality as the film that we are watching. Usually we would see a voyeur using a camcorder or handy-cam, which of course would cause the footage to be of a lesser quality grade.
*At approximately 13:30 (Pal version) A camera shadow is revealed in a night shot on the left hand side of the frame when the Laurent's rewind one of the tapes left on their doorstep, and is exactly the same 'production' camera used to shoot this film. You will notice in the preceding scene that the camera that follows Georges when he answers a phone call from his wife, is the same one used to shoot the TV episode he just recorded. IMDb lists it as a 'goof' ''During the tape where Georges pulls up in his car and parks at night the headlights clearly cast a huge distinct shadow of the camera on the wall.'' - Haneke like Kubrick does not make 'goofs' - he shows you exactly what he wants to show you.
*A tape just seems to magically appear in their front doorway (during the dinner party at their home), preventing Georges from being able to close the door he just opened, inserted by none other than Haneke it seems.
*How about the incredibly shocking suicide of Majid, could this have been captured on a consumer grade video camera hidden in his apartment? And if his son was somehow complicit, did he know that his father would end his life? It all seems highly unlikely.
*Remember that Haneke experiments with the blurring of fiction and reality which can be seen when a character breaks the fourth wall in his 1997 Funny Games amongst other examples across his body of work.
*Most people miss the events of the films final scene, where we actually see the two sons have a discussion on the school steps.
*Also notice the nods to David Lynch's Lost Highway, not only in the tapes/surveillance scenario, but in the Dick Laurent/Georges Laurent similarity. Haneke paying homage to Lynch?
So with these few examples, we can already see that the film we watched upon first viewing is starting to peel back some of its layers to reveal its true purpose, and that being the examination of guilt and how we perceive and pay attention to the media we are saturated with (a subject Haneke addresses throughout his oeuvre). Should a six year old boy feel so guilty and ashamed of his devious schemes from such a young age or his parents in trying to protect their son by removing a perceived threat? Maybe, and maybe not, but in line with the film's theme, the past needs to be illuminated and dealt with and not remain as something swept under the rug (as Georges TV producer does when he is sent a postcard revealing something from Georges past, destroying evidence to avoid controversy).
Much can be mined from the Paris massacre incident of 1961, which saw over 200 Algerians murdered and dumped in the Seine including Majid's parents, an event that France tried to keep 'hidden' in all its guilt. This astonishing event would seem to be a very important catalyst in what Haneke is exploring within Caché and echoed in the narrative that has Georges unable to reveal the hidden guilt of his past to his family (even his mother seems to be repressing the guilt she feels), and unable to accept any responsibility for the life course of Majid, but as the film shows us, these repressed memories will always come back to haunt us (as the Paris Massacre finally did in the year 2000). All this is foreshadowed in an symbolic scene earlier in the film where we see Georges and his wife leaving the police station to be almost knocked down by a black cyclist, the argument that ensues displays both a racial tension, but also lack of willingness to accept who was the guilty party.
So with Caché we can see a whole new generation of French children are beginning to discover the atrocities of their parents due to the availability and saturation of media, something both Pierrot's parents seem to ignore, for instance the television screen that is showing Israeli conflicts during an argument because they perceive their first world problems to be more pertinent, or how their lives are filled with media eg. their careers, the walls of books and videos in their home - all set dressing that they do not pay close attention to, or even when Georges is editing his TV show, he manipulates the truth by cutting out the meat of the discussion. Maybe this is the key to the final scene of the film (well, in my interpretation), where we could perceive a glimmer of hope for Majid and Georges' sons to begin a new cycle of power, an enlightened generation, but in the case of Georges (a reflection of French society), he may never come to terms with the truth of his past and his actions and is more interested in finding out who is revealing the skeletons in his closest.
Haneke has crafted this film like a symphony without any hint of a score, and relies on his own technique of manipulation to help his audience draw on their intellect and dissect the true theme of his film instead of being told how to feel by a score or soundtrack. Caché has so much to say, but you have to reveal what is hidden to get true value from it, which is why it is a true highlight in his career and for me, and one of the great films of this century thus far.