Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

Caché opens with a static long shot of a street; the frame includes a couple of houses, cars and a few people passing by.  In the centre is the entrance of a house; almost nothing moves in the image except for some trees and passer-bys; the humming sound in the background suggests the noise of the city.  Credits run horizontally as if someone is typing on the screen; their form complements the prevalent immobility, silence and insignificance in the image: nothing is happening.  We do not know that this is a video recording until we see the image rewind; the voice-overs do not lead us anywhere.  The formal qualities of this image – the static framing, surveillance-like positioning, the reticence in the filmed image – are cues to the following recordings that we will see in later scenes.  As the film continues, however, we face the impossibility of separating the recordings from the movie itself.  It is as if segments were cut from the film and replaced to make a new story out of them.

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Instead of being verbally and visually elaborate about violence and terror imposed by people on other people, Haneke chooses to create an atmosphere for the audience to meditate about it.  The scene right before the finale portrays the core incident evocative of this terror, which triggers the protagonist Georges’s (Daniel Auteuil’s) guilt and which perhaps also represents the hidden memory that he does not want to confront consciously.  Hence, the indeterminate status of the scene is appropriate; we do not know whether this is Georges’s dream, his memory, or even another video-tape.

Cache_02

Little Majid runs as far as out of the frame.

This three and a half minute scene starts out quietly with the sound and the image of chickens in front of the farmhouse where Georges spent his childhood.  A green car enters the frame from the right corner and makes a turn to park in front of the house.  A woman gets out and enters the house while the driver waits for her in front of the car.  The woman comes out with a suitcase followed by little Majid escorted by Georges’s parents.  Before anybody attempts to put him in the car, Majid starts to run to the right, towards what seems to be the entrance of the yard.  Majid runs as far as out of the frame, followed by the woman and the driver who succeed in catching him there.  Meanwhile, the only two characters in the image are Geroges’s parents who stand still and look.  A moment later, Georges’s mother takes comfort in her husband’s arms, a gesture that appears to suggest her anguish.  The driver and the woman return with Majid in their arms.  The child continues to shout, fight back and kick, a sight that Georges’s mother no longer can bear to witness.  As her husband takes her inside, the driver forcefully pushes the child inside the car, which then drives away from where it entered with the continuing sound of Majid’s protest. 

Throughout the scene, the camera never moves.  It is situated in what seems to be a garage across the house.  The event takes place in the distance; it is impossible to see the characters’ facial expressions.  Needless to say, such a form resembles the former surveillance video-tapes we have seen in the film.  However, the absence of Georges in the scene hints at the possibility that this is his point of view. The distance of the camera can also signify that this is a long forgotten memory: Georges knows what happened that day; Majid was sent away because of Georges’s lies amidst his heart breaking protests.  The camera’s distance, its immobility and the dominating tranquillity in the space contrast the scene’s content.  A child is being sent to an orphanage, forcefully taken from his home because of false accusations.  The scene does not show the event in detail, but its impact is powerful because it invites us to be a witness to the crime.  This event, undetailed in the distance, may as well recall many similar instances in different parts of the world.  Georges’s guilt is transferred to the people who are watching and it transforms from being personal to global.

 

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