Cache, or Hidden, is a 2005 film by Michael Haneke that is a next next level thriller. The basic premise is about a middle class intellectual family in Paris getting sent mysterious tapes of their own house. It appears that someone is watching them and this causes them much grievance and stress. Georges is clearly disturbed but also seems as if he has something to hide. His wife Anne wonders why the hell he’s even hiding anything from her. They’re afraid for themselves and for their son. Eventually we learn that the problem appears to center around a conflict from the lead character’s childhood with the son of Algerian immigrants.

The film itself is a masterpiece. On the first level, it’s a thriller that hooks you in. The suspense is sick despite the absolute normality on display. There’s like 2 hideously violent scenes but for the most part, it’s a slow gentle disquiet. The worst kind so to speak. I cringed looking at hallways or Georges standing in his own room in the dark. On the second level, the racial theme in the film cannot be ignored. It’s obvious and yet indirect. One scene has Georges having a confrontation with a cyclist on the street for not much reason. It seems silly. Both men are perfectly rational and should see the sense that there should be no conflict. Yet their emotions or predilections whether acknowledged or suppressed were clearly obvious and tension was high. The only thing about the scene was that the cyclist was black. That was it. He didn’t pull the race card. They just argued. Yet somehow, we’re drawn into thinking “ah…. it’s a race thing” because we see a black man.

Not to suggest that anyone who’d think that is racist per se but that’s the film. The third level of the film is the most insane. The thing about the narrative is that it is completely unresolved. You’re left wondering who what when where how and there are no answers. You could look through the film umpteen times and you’ll find nothing. Cache has it’s mysteries hidden but none of those answer the narrative loopholes. They’re there to make you wonder wtf just happened. Which is why it’s insane. If you care to notice it, the film is challenging you, the viewer.

The opening shot is probably the best example. You see a frame showing a house. The credits appear in white font over it in one continuously rolling block. Nothing happens or even moves. You wonder if it’s a photo and then suddenly a cyclist goes past. Oh it’s actually film. Then we see a guy entering and leaving the house and then we hear voices. Oh they’re talking about the film. We’re watching what they are. Next up, it’s the scratchy lines of a videotape being wound backwards. It’s a tape. Old school I know but it wouldn’t work with a disc. You wouldn’t get that it’s a recorded thing.

How that shot introduces the 2 lead characters and the mystery that never gets solved is meticulously wonderful. It’s a paradigm shift in the idea of perception, image, cultural predisposition and bourgeois uppityness. It’s a slap in the face of the very people most likely to watch a Michael Haneke film because they’re looking for something. Some middle class yearning for culture/art/politics/philosophy… That still frame somehow turns people into judges. You look for changes and become critical rather than just looking. You keep thinking what’s wrong what’s wrong. I think Haneke’s idea is to question if there is anything wrong at all or if it’s because you think something is necessarily wrong. You become naturally objective because of how Haneke manipulates his film and his unmoving camera and hence you. Or me at least.

This film is about the perceptions that remain latent, hidden and unknown. Until you realize that’s the real you. I watched the film and realize that whilst I don’t consider myself racist, I would notice a black man and my brain would tell me he’s black and that he’s probably whatever whatever stereotypes. Likewise for a Chinese guy or a white du or whoever. You think a certain way about someone because of their race. It’s unavoidable and doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative assumptions. That’s all built up and inculcated through the media, through films, shit that gets edited. You are prejudiced even when you try not to. The film fucks around with white guilt.

Incidentally the lead characters work in media. Georges works as a tv show host for some program where they talk about books or something and Anne works at a publishers. There’s quite a lot of this weaving together of themes and ideas and bonds forming between the characters and the character of the film. It’s quite spectacular after you stop to analyze everything after you’ve watched the film. You start to forget about the whodunnit and instead on the aftermath of 9/11 and the pervading racial unease of the noughties.

There’s quite a bit of silly discussion going on on the IMDB boards and even Roger Ebert put in some remarks that suggest that there’s a “smoking gun” that provides evidence to the mystery. I reckon that’s all bullshit. Some peeps even think Haneke himself is the answer. Well, he is. Duh. He’s the director and he just fucked you up and you still don’t get it. There is no resolution just because you need one; one assuage your restlessness and move onto the next film to talk about so you can conveniently keep Cache hidden. The main crux isn’t solving anything at all. It’s about making you queasy watching the most normal of things that you hesitate to confront.