A Digital Masterwork: Michael Haneke’s Caché (2005)


Caché is one of those movies that winds you so tightly after one watch that a second viewing is sure to be less satisfying. I finally plucked up the courage to give it another spin and while the experience is a different one with all the mystery dispelled, the film is no less impressive.

Haneke is one of our living masters. Every film he makes feels important and definitive in some way. His knack for creating unease and visceral thrills through the most restrained lens is just remarkable. Caché bubbles, fizzles and throbs with a sense of dread yet the camera rarely interferes. It’s all about the blocking, the body language and the performances. As a result, the film is one of the century’s great mysteries and one which audiences will forever be puzzling over because of Haneke’s ambiguity.

Everyone will associate their first time with this film with its one explosion of violence. It happens so suddenly and so casually that you can’t help but react in a very physical way. I remember almost lunging at the screen, trying to prevent it because of how shocking and real the moment was. Even the second time around that moment haunted my experience. I knew it was coming and found it impossible to relax until the moment passed. I have no doubt in my mind that this is an intentional part of Haneke’s design. By putting a screen between his fiction and his audience, Haneke makes us all helpless. Just like Georges, we are at his mercy.

One of the things that really struck me about Caché upon rewatch was how essential the digital photography is to the experience. Somehow, this is a film I absolutely cannot imagine being shot on film. The digital sheen is so much a part of it. Among many other things, it is about the dawn of the digital age, the threat of instant content and accessible equipment. The reason there are no definitive suspects responsible for the videos which land of Georges and Anna’s doorstep is because of how anonymously they are created. Literally anyone could have made them. Sure, only a handful of people are aware of Georges’ past, but buried secrets somehow find a way of coming back to life in the most unexpected form. For Haneke to make his first masterpiece of the 21s century with digital technology goes a long way to validate the format as a legitimate filmmaking tool with properties and ambience unique to itself. It is absolutely a masterwork of digital filmmaking.

I’ve been wanting to revisit Caché for a long time, it was just a matter of waiting for the right moment. With enough years and enough distance, the fog of Caché was allowed to form again and once more I could experience the film in a semi-ignorant way. Sure I remembered all the key plot beats and images, but the nuance and structure I was happy to re-discover. This is such a stunning piece of work, with such unspoken power that I find it difficult to describe what exactly makes it such an experience. It might not be the showiest film ever made, or even the most visually striking of Haneke’s career but it manages to accomplish a mood and a tone that is purely cinematic by doing very little. It is the cerebral thriller to end all cerebral thrillers but for the most part its greatness is so deep under the surface that Haneke will actually trick you into thinking that it is, quite literally, hidden.

This entry was posted in Favourite Movies, Movies Watched In 2016, Reviews, Rewatch and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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