Sunday, April 7, 2013
A Paris couple, Georges and Anne, are disturbed and puzzled because someone is sending them anonymous video tapes of their house exteriors. One tape, however, shows a certain street and a certain apartment, so Georges goes to investigate. It turns out that Majid lives in the apartment - an Algerian whose parents were killed in the '61 Paris massacre, so Georges' parents wanted to adopt him, but the then 6-year old Georges tricked Majid into killing a rooster in order to get rid of him and transport him into an orphanage. The now 50-year old Majid, however, denies he sent him any tapes. After Georges' threats, Majid commits suicide. Georges' son Pierrot and Majid's son are later seen talking in front of the school, suggesting that they sent the tapes, possibly to try to reconcile their parents.
After his overhyped "White Ribbon" and "Love" both won the Golden Palm, many critics started to explore director Michael Haneke's earlier career and remembered his arguably best film, "Hidden", that won three awards at the Cannes film festival, including best director. "Hidden" is an anti-thriller, an intelligent, concise and sophisticated art drama (except for the infamous, badly directed scene with the chicken) that subtly challenges Europe's polished image by questioning France's taboo colonial past and the '61 Paris massacre where numerous Algerians were killed. Not only can the film be read as an political allegory, but also as a generational, since the dark past from the 20th century here plagues the hero even in the 21st century, Georges (great Daniel Auteuil), who cannot get rid of it. The story is rich with nuances and layers that can be analysed from almost a dozen perspectives, and it is quite interesting how it builds a 'sustained intensity' with so little actual suspense - the tapes of George's home can be seen as a threat, or simply as an reconciliation attempt, as is later implied in the final shot - and the sequence where the Algerian teenager hesitates but then suddenly quickly enters the elevator together with Georges is exquisite example of unsettling tension that is reminiscent of Hitchcock and (especially) Chabrol, who used to give certain statement about society in his movies. However, despite such an unusual, borderline 'twist ending', one should criticize Haneke for not directing it in a clearer, more expressionistic manner. As it is, it is, unfortunately, almost lost on the viewers, instead of being more articulate. Even thought it borrowed the anonymous video tapes idea from Lynch's "Lost Highway", this is a static, but engaging example of food for thought.