Michael Haneke's anxiety-inducing suspenser. Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), are living secure and well in Paris. One day, their idyll is disrupted in the form of a videotape on their doorstep. The footage is of their house from across the street - who shot it and why? More tapes arrive, with disturbingly intimate and increasingly personal images. As Georges launches his own investigation, secrets from his past are revealed and the couple's wall of security begins to crumble.
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BY fairbrother superstar
Hidden never spells out whodunit with any certainty. Because whodunit is, in the end, not quite the point. This mystery provides the film a narrative motor but it has bigger thematic fish to fry. What we are meant to watch, very closely, is George's reaction to this situation.
George has a comfortable life. He and Anne have been married for years. Their son, Pierrot, is playing up the way 13 year-old boys are wont to do but he's no hell-raiser. George hosts a TV chat show where guests talk literature. We sense that here is a man with things in order. A certain sense of control. But the arrival of the mysterious videotape - which will be followed by others - chips away at that sense of control. Gradually, George's dread at the prospect of being watched up-close by one particular person - as opposed to being watched remotely by thousands of strangers on TV - scrapes up a long-buried memory from his childhood. It's something he's never told anyone. It's something that, for reasons he can't explain (or admit), shames and haunts him. And he thinks it might explain who is watching, and why, and the explanation - if he's correct - suggests their camera-wielding stalker has revenge in mind.
Watch how George keeps his cards close to his chest as long as he can. Watch how he seeks out to prove or refute his suspicions without admitting his own possible culpability. Watch how, with little concrete evidence, he comes to believe he knows who is threatening him and why. Watch his certainty and outrage grow as the ambiguity spreads and his own sense of powerlessness increases. Watch how he responds to the story's sudden, shocking anti-climax, listen to how he explains it after the fact.
Hidden touches many big, prickly themes, without ever spelling out a MESSAGE. It's about terrorism. It's about television. It's about white privilege. It's about historical amnesia. It's about how exploitation's side effects trickle down through generations. All of this is between the lines, suggested by the rigorous formal control exerted by writer-director Michael Haneke, who frames and choreographs every moment with surgical precision. Slow-paced? Dead slow much of the time. But never boring. If you engage with the film - take up it's challenge not to look away - that pacing takes on a life of it's own, forcing us to consider what we're "really" seeing and what we're not. It also generates a nagging anticipation which ratchets up suspense even though traditional thriller-tropes are nowhere to be found. There are no chases; no narrow escapes; no cathartic confrontations which restore order; only suspicion, fear, guilt, and many more questions. It's a moral fable built on psychological quicksand.
Obviously, this is not what some people watch movies for. I expect half the people who see Hidden will absolutely hate it: they'll say it's boring, pretentious, obscure to the point of meaninglessness. I can't blame them. But I must disagree. I reckon it's one of the richest and most provocative films of the 21st century so far. It dares you to come back, again and again, to see something you're sure you missed. You can pick through one layer of meaning and, there, you find another one. And then another. And another... and that, finally, might be the film's over-reaching point: reality is fluid, not absolute, as much a story we construct for ourselves as a network of concrete knowledge.Hide