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Reviewing the film Caché (Hidden)

Caché is a brilliant and uncomfortable film that does not entertain but is worth viewing and reviewing.  The 2005 French-language film is often described as a psychological thriller.  I’d say psychological mystery or suspense is a better description.  Caché, which means “hidden,” is the perfect title for this mental and moral teaser because the more this film uncovers the more is hidden until we are asking questions about our views of ourselves, our society, and reality itself.  Or is it just our reality?

What do you do with a movie that begins with three or four minutes of a picture of an urban neighborhood with cars parked along the street?  Is this all there is?  Is this what my Friday night movie is going to be?  Boring.  Ah, a man rides by on a bicycle. Movement! So I’m not just viewing a photograph.  A couple of people walk by, and then there are voices.  I don’t see anybody.  Where are these voices coming from?  What’s going on?  The line appears on the screen–the telltale sign of a videotape being rewound.  But who’s watching what I’m watching?  It’s a couple, Georges and Ann Laurent, watching a video of their place of residence that was dropped off outside their house.  Here’s the mystery or the first one.  Who is watching them and why?  And I’m watching a film about a couple watching a video of their lives by someone who’s been watching them.  This is confusing. Layers within layers of perception and misperception.  What is reality?

Slowly, very slowly, we discover that there is something that the Georges has done that he wants to remain hidden.  More videos are delivered, one accompanied by a child-like drawing of a face with blood coming out of the mouth and another with a chicken bleeding from the neck.  We start seeing flashes of a boy (Arab??) cleaning blood off his face.  Then we see this same boy being watched by another boy–a French boy.  The one boy chops off the head of a rooster and approaches the French boy threateningly with a hatchet.  Then Georges awakens suddenly from his dream.  Under questioning by his frightened wife, he admits that his parents had Algerian workers who apparently had perished in the Paris massacre of 1961, an event in which he states that two hundred protesting Algerians had died at the hands of the French police.  Georges’s parents wanted to adopt Majid, the Algerian son of these workers, but he was jealous and didn’t want to share his room and possessions.  He admits to his wife that he told his parents that Majid coughed up blood.  He then told Majid that his parents wanted him to kill a rooster, which was a lie.  As a result, his parents sent Majid away.

The videos are clearly intended to force Georges to confess his guilt for what he had done.  Georges admits what he did but refuses to accept responsibility for the consequences of his action to Mejid and his family, analogous to the French government’s attempt to evade responsibility for the Paris massacre of 1961.  The dream that we saw did portray true events, but they were events filtered through Georges’s memory, the human video camera.  It is the memory of a boy who felt threatened, not by a hatchet, but by an orphan whom he believed was stealing his special place as a son and forcing him to share his possessions.

Fast forward to the end of the movie.  Georges returns home after being confronted by Mejid’s son.  He takes two sleeping pills and calls his wife, asking not to be disturbed.  He goes to his bedroom.  It is still day; so, he closes the curtains to block the light, strips naked, and covers himself in a blanket.  Georges is a man who has spent his whole life attempting to keep his guilty past from being exposed to the light of day.  Only in the dark can he fully expose himself, but even then he seeks the cover of his own dream world.  Are we not all this way to some extent?

But who sent the videos?  Who was watching Georges all this time?  We’re never told.  Or are we?  The last scene is a return to a shot of Georges’s son’s school.  There may be a clue hidden in these final frames.  View and review Caché.  It is brilliant, but it’s not entertaining.  It is uncomfortable.  What are you watching? And, perhaps even more troubling, who is watching you?





2 thoughts on “Reviewing the film Caché (Hidden)

  1. Congratulations, Billy. You nailed it on the head about Cache. “Not entertaining” and “boring”were your words. And mine too. We watched this movie together. Within 15 minutes, I, as was Papa”s habit, fell in a deep snoring sleep. “Jules and Jim” by Truffatt is another classic New Wave French film which I didn’t get. Art house movies ofttimes are boring or depressing to me. Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” was both boring and depressing at the same time. Here is a suggestion. “Les Diaboliques” is a superb 50’s movie in black and white. Adultery and revenge always make for a engaging movie. By the way, it is in black and white.

    1. Thanks, Judy. It does get more interesting, but I believe that it is not really a thriller. I haven’t seen the Truffaut film. Thanks for the warning. One of our teachers likes his “400 Blows.”

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