Code Inconnu (Michael Haneke, 2000)

The following scene is inserted within the film’s credits and can be considered like a prologue.

A little girl stands in front of  a white wall. She warily starts taking small steps to her side, towards the wall. Her shoulders go down as if she wants to hide herself.  Without taking her eyes away from our side, she kneels down and makes herself smaller.

There is a cut to another child’s face, and then another. Her audience is made up of children around her age. One of the kids ask, in sign language: “Alone?” It is at this moment we understand that this is a group of mute children playing a guessing game. The little girl by the wall shakes her head. Another kid asks, “Somewhere to hide?”, to which her response is the same. The children keep on guessing: “Gangster? Remorse? Sad? Imprisoned?” None of them can guess it correctly. The little girl’s expression changes every time the kids cannot get it right. She seems frustrated and hurt.


The scene abruptly ends on the sad image of the little girl; the correct answer to what she is trying to tell is never disclosed. It introduces one of the main themes in the story: miscommunication. The film’s loosely connected structure traces the paths of different characters in different episodes. Some of these paths intersect, but neither the importance nor the meaning of this intersection is emphasized. Some characters want to tell something to the another; others do not know that they are in fact feeling the same with another. But their common characteristic is the way they withhold their emotions and thoughts, which is perhaps a common characteristic of modern times.

The opening scene delivers this theme not only in terms of content, but also of form. The group of children are never shot together; cuts separate them in different shots. The little girl’s wet eyes towards the end perhaps signifies a longing for being together, understanding and loving each other, the code of which is unknown.



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