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by Michael Haneke

grade: 8.5

Everyone has something to hide. Michael Haneke knows this well. And he also knows that certain secrets and faults from the past can also have a strong, very strong impact on the present. In Hidden, therefore, the protagonist’s past returns in the most devious way.

Faults from the past

Michael Haneke knows well where to direct the spectator’s gaze, but, at the same time, he treats him with profound respect, leaving him complete freedom of interpretation. An operation, this one, undoubtedly complex and courageous, which has further contributed to making the Viennese filmmaker one of the most interesting and controversial contemporary authors within the Austrian and international film scene. This operation was also carried out in the excellent HIdden, made in 2005 and awarded Best Direction at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yes, best direction. How can we not agree? Because, in fact, right from the first shots we realise that what we are about to witness is something totally unconventional: on the screen we see the image of a house. Silence. Nothing much seems to be happening until we hear off-screen voices. What we have just seen is a video that Georges and Anne (played by Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) have just received. Someone is spying on them and filming what is happening outside their house. As time goes by, the two receive more and more often such anonymous videos, along with rather disturbing drawings. Who could it be that wants to threaten their tranquillity?

Everyone has something to hide. Michael Haneke knows this well. And he also knows that certain secrets and faults from the past can also have a strong, very strong impact on the present. In Hidden, therefore, Georges’ past returns in the most devious way. And even we, along with the protagonist, do not really know what is going on or who the author of such threats really is. In the meantime, the apparent tranquillity of an upper-class family is slowly destroyed, roosters are killed with an axe and slowly die in pain, and important secrets emerge.

In making Hidden, Michael Haneke has paid attention to every detail, realising a highly complex and layered work, in which, as usual, the act of watching almost plays the leading role, in which through television screens we see a specially filtered representation of reality (as we had already seen in Benny’s Video and as we will see in Happy End, just to give a few examples), in which reality, the oneiric, past and present continually meet and mingle, in which no one is really innocent, in which repressed anger results in sudden quarrels with passers-by, in which violence is often something we can only perceive in everyday life, but, at the same time, when it is shown to us without any filter, it hurts us very, very much.

In Hidden we are not given to know how things really are, but, on the contrary, Michael Haneke has given us great freedom of interpretation. Particularly emblematic in this respect is the final scene, in which – decidedly off-centre and filmed in the distance – we see Georges’s son talking to the son of Majid, Georges’s half-brother, whose life was practically ruined by the latter when they were both children. What could the two have said to each other? Before filming, Michael Haneke wrote a very precise dialogue for them. No one, however, will ever know what the two actually said to each other. To the audience, in fact, the freedom to draw their own conclusions.

Original title: Caché
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Country/year: France, Austria, Germany, Italy / 2005
Running time: 117’
Genre: thriller, mistery, drama
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou, Annie Girardot, Bernard Le Coq, Walid Afkir, Lester Makedonsky, Daniel Duval, Nathalie Richard, Denis Podalydès, Aïssa Maïga, Caroline Baehr, Christian Benedetti, Annette Faure, Hugo Flamigni, Malik Nait Djoudi, Diouc Koma, Marie Kremer
Screenplay: Michael Haneke
Cinematography: Christian Berger
Produced by: Les Films du Losange, Wega Film, Bavaria Film

Info: the page of Hidden on iMDb; the page of Hidden on the website of the Austrian Film Commission