Directed By: Michael Haneke

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, and Maurice Bénichou

Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast and owner of and writer of movie reviews.  He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic and Helium.

We live in an era hooked on voyeurism.  The major American television networks, which once thrived on scripted shows, have slowly transformed into purveyors of “reality” shows, shows that depict “normal” human beings confined and placed with a group of strangers, all of whom are competing for a cash prize.  Common characteristics that can be found in winners on these shows include shamelessness, the ability to be cruel and utter narcissism.  Of course, many of these people behave far differently off camera, or one would certainly hope so.  The theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg devised a now oft cited principle called the uncertainty principle, which features a component that states that a subject will change its behavioral pattern while under observation.  Few films from the new century demonstrate this with such brilliance and intensity as Michael Haneke’s 2005 masterpiece Caché.

This haunting French film courtesy of the famed Austrian Auteur tells the story of a happily married and affluent couple, Anne and Georges (played exquisitely by Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, respectively).  She’s a book publisher; he’s the host of a hit television program about books.  Along with their rebellious pubescent son, the two live comfortably in a beautiful modernized home, frequently filled with friends.  Their lives are shaken, however, when videotapes start appearing on their doorstep.  The videotapes feature nothing but hours of footage of their home, shot by a static camera.  There’s no introduction, no threatening message: just a shot of their house and the passersby.  Anne and Georges think little of it at first, but it becomes harder for Georges to ignore when a crudely drawn picture of a deceased chicken appears in place of the tape.

The picture reminds Georges of a miserable experience from his childhood, involving an orphaned Algerian boy who lived at Georges’ home.  This picture sets Georges into action, and he attempts to track down the person making these tapes.  The mission brings Georges much closer to that unfortunate episode in his life, and has unforeseen and tragic consequences. 

Haneke’s film is a subtle and unnerving wonder.  It creeps under your skin.  The film doesn’t accomplish this through the use of leading music and trick editing.  Rather, Haneke pierces his audience simply by using the relatability factor, showing the fragility of our egos, the depths of our guilty conscience and the paranoia that resides in us all.  Just as with all of his best films, Haneke conjures up vivid and honest characters.  While the camera in the film acts as a McGuffin and sets the story in motion, it’s Haneke’s camera and sure hand that dissect these characters so carefully and so skillfully.

Just like the videotapes that arrive on the doorstep, there’s more here in the film than meets the eye.  Whenever Haneke has the chance to be at all subversive and political, he takes it, and Caché is no exception.  Not only does Caché work as a sensational thriller, it also serves as a tragic political allegory, shining a light on the history of the relationship between the French and the Algerian immigrants that have long arrived at French shores.  Haneke doesn’t beat the viewers over the head with his message (which is good), but it’s undeniably there.

Since the film’s 2005 release, rumors of an American remake have surfaced.  Aside from making atrocious reality television, there’s nothing that American film studios do better than remaking foreign hits.  Sometimes these remakes actually work (see Let Me In), but often times it’s little more than a money grubbing and artistically bankrupt enterprise.  A remake of Caché would have to be a retool as opposed to a simple remake, given that the film’s foundation is rooted in French history.  That is one reason that this film should be crossed off the potential remake list.  The other reason?  It’s simply perfect as it stands.  This masterpiece doesn’t need any alcoholic accompaniment per se.  Nonetheless, a couple of glasses of tasty French wine certainly won’t hurt.  Caché gets a sober rating.