The host of a popular literary TV show, Georges (Daniel Auteuil), and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) live with their teenage son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) in a Paris suburb, where they discover they are being secretly filmed. Tapes arrive on their doorstep, growing in their intrusiveness. One of the tapes leads Georges to a small flat where he finds, Majid (Maurice Binichou), a character from his childhood, who denies involvement. Georges has his guilty reasons to suspect him, but can prove nothing. The mystery unsettles and unravels his family and his life, as his secret, hidden guilt drives him to try and find answers, which may be buried in his own childhood.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Winner of the Best Director & FIPRESCI awards at Cannes in 2005, Michael Haneke's gripping drama is superbly performed, directed and made, while the themes of complications in multi-racial integration hit a contemporary note. But it's not really a film about cultural conflict, because at it's core the conflict is between two young boys around the age of 6, one feeling threatened by the other when his parents try to adopt the other, the Algerian orphan son of parents who had worked on the boy's family farm.
The film is, indeed, superbly directed, Haneke showing his prowess through several testing scenes, not the least the opening shot that lingers on a suburban streetscape for so long - without music cues - that we begin to worry if this will last for two hours. In other scenes, he manages to create tension using the camera, against the bland dialogue of daily dross.
Daniel Auteuil, Best Actor winner of the European Film Awards (and Hidden the Best Film), shows a remarkably complex yet wound-up Georges, (whose literary TV show's popularity is itself a notable element for Australian TV audiences). Juliette Binoche is outstanding as his confounded wife. As things grow ever more threatening yet hidden, she is the one who is the most confused and lost. Every scene is strikingly staged in a minimalist fashion, often underlit or lit with (not much) available light, yet there is no sense of gloominess to the visuals.
While Haneke is setting the film's action against the backdrop of French guilt over its treatment of Algerians (and all the extensions of that notion in geopolitical terms), he is doing so within the context of a dramatic father/son axis across the ethnic line.
The locked off closing shot, echoing the locked off opening shot, requires close attention, but even then, we are left with some aspects of the film that remain hidden from our conscious understanding. There is no thriller-like resolution. Haneke, a trained psychologist, brings that discipline to bear on this haunting film.
Review by Louise Keller:
The most unsettling part about Michael Haneke's taut, psychological thriller Hidden, is the constantly changing points of view. We are never sure through whose eyes we are watching the events. As the plot unfolds, is it the filmmaker's view we are watching? Or are we voyeuristically looking at life through the lens of the concealed camera? Or are we privy to the tightly guarded mental imagery of Daniel Auteuil's protagonist's memories? We get a sense of being a voyeur, watching sections of the life of an outwardly normal, happy family. But it becomes apparent that there is an underlying sense of secrecy common to each member of the family.
Brilliantly conceived and executed, Hidden grabs our attention from the very first frame, when we are not entirely sure why we are watching a street scene in which nothing much happens, but we can't look away. We see the front of a house, in part covered with ivy and whose front door symbolically is masked by a security gate and a hedge. There are cars parked outside facing each other. A headlight flashes, the sound of a car door shuts and we see the silhouette of a man as he walks across the road and into the house.
Daniel Auteuil gives a wonderfully controlled performance as Georges, an outwardly successful man who keeps his emotions tightly under control. Juliette Binoche's Anne tries to penetrate into Georges' world, but he distances herself from her. Haneke directs the film tantalizingly, so we notice all the details. We notice the street signs, the apartment number, the family house facade where Georges was raised. We also notice the detachment between Georges and Anne, Georges' discomfort and the isolation bubble that their son Pierrot has put himself into.
Ultimately, Hidden is a story about guilt. The lighting, the music and the camera angles all contribute to a bottleneck of tension. There are two disturbingly violent scenes that shock and violate, and even at the film's end, we are unsure whose point of view we are seeing. Not surprisingly, the ending is open to interpretation so be prepared to have all the events rolling over again and again in your mind.
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CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou, Annie Girardot, Bernard Le Coq, Walid Afkir, Lester Makedonsky, Daniel Duval, Nathalie Richard
PRODUCER: Veit Heduschka
DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke
SCRIPT: Michael Haneke
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christian Berger
EDITOR: Michael Hudecek, Nadine Muse
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Emmanuel de Chauvigny, Christoph Kanter
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman Cinema
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 4, 2006