Cache: What's Hidden Here?

If you are looking for an example of subtext, Cache (Hidden) is a must-see. Not only do each of the scenes speak volumes by what is not said, but there is a subtext underlying the film as a whole.

In all honesty, I rarely like minimalist filmmaking. Usually it comes off as pretentious and boring. It communicates too little, does a poor job of engaging the viewer. And while there are many viewers who no doubt think the same of Cache - Haneke's tale of guilt managed to keep me mesmerized.

It starts off so quietly, I was about to stop the disc and see if something was wrong. There is almost no sound as the opening credits roll. No music (either here or elsewhere in the film,) no dialogue, and just the barest hint of ambient sounds. The camera is still, watching a house from the street. A car passes, a person leaves.

And then staticy lines appear on the screen, and we realize we're watching a video tape. The characters begin talking about it. It's been left on their doorstep.

Through the course of the movie, we realize that the protagonist hides more than he shows. He may interview intellectuals on his TV show, but he does a poor job of communicating in real life. The vague threat posed by the tapes they receive serves to throw a light on the problems that existed already between the two - and at the same time point to an almost-forgotten incident from his childhood.

He feels such guilt (despite denying it) over this incident, he won't talk about it. Won't even put words to it. It's hidden, buried. Not such a horrible thing, a simple childish act of selfishness - but with horrible consequences.

In once scene, his wife comes into the room - and they argue. He says almost nothing. She's frustrated with him. Behind them is a wall of books and videotapes with a television in the center. On the television is news footage. Photos of faces, presumably missing or dead men. Tanks, fighting - as they argue, a war goes on between them.

In another, when the mother confronts her son - he indirectly accuses her of adultery. All he says is, "ask Pierre, he knows everything" - but the pouting, and her reaction, say it all. She insists Pierre is only a friend, and the audience is left with their doubts. Perhaps she complains to her husband so much about the tapes to distract from her own hidden guilt. It's never resolved, one more tense string played through the story.

At the end, nothing is resolved - and this feels utterly right. Because the story was not about the tapes, but about guilt. About long-hidden actions and their repercussions.

Ultimately, its about national guilt for a long-repressed act. In 1961, in Paris, the French police killed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of unarmed Algerian protesters. It was not until 1998 that the police chief was convicted, and 2001 before a plaque honoring the dead was put up. According to the director, it's a piece of French history that is rarely spoken of, hidden - much like the protagonist's past.

It is precisely by approaching the subject so indirectly that Cache succeeds.