Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cache (2005)

Title: Cache (2005)

Writer/Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Lester Makedonsky, Maurice Benichou


This is my first Michael Haneke film. I’ve heard his name and movies mentioned a lot so I decided to finally explore his filmography, I decided to begin with one of his most accessible films (on this side of the world anyways) Cache. I have no idea what this director is all about, or the themes he likes to explore, so this review comes from a possibly naïve point of view to those who know what he is all about. It’s just that Haneke has a new film coming out called The White Ribbon and a quote about the film said that “it feels like a classic even as you are watching it!” So I said that’s it! Let’s start watching some Haneke! So I started with Cache. How was it?

Cache is a film about a family who is being watched. The Laurent’s are a high class family. Dad works running a talk show on tv, mom edits books and the son is a high school student. They appear to be a tranquil and happy family. Or are they? One day, somebody leaves a video tape at their door step. When they play it, they realize that somebody has been taping the front of the house for hours and hours. Seeing everything they do. Soon, other tapes follow. It becomes quite obvious that somebody is following them around taping their every move. Who is watching them and for what purpose? And how will the fact that they are being watched affect the family?

With its initial premise, Cache reminded me a lot of David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997). It starts out essentially the same way, with a family receiving a video tape letting them know that they are being watched by an anonymous on looker. It’s a freaky premise any way you look at it, having a stalker following your every step without you knowing it is a scary idea. Which is probably why Lynch used it, cause he loves to creep you out with the mystery. But on Cache, Haneke used the same premise as Lynch, only without the freakiness. Let me rephrase that, without excessive freakiness. Cache does have its freaky moments, it’s just that they don’t permeate every single second of film. This movie plays a lot like a thriller, teasing, and taunting its audiences, but in many ways, it isn’t. It plays with your expectations that way.

I’m always seeing similarities between films, and with Cache I also noticed some similarities with Chan Wook Park’s Oldboy (2003). Same as in Oldboy, something from the past is creeping up on the main characters. Cache is about that whole idea that something from your past is coming back to haunt you. It plays with that idea that you did something really awful in the past and you tried to erase it from your mind, forget it. But now, it’s come back to bite you in the ass! This is the films main theme, that idea that we sometimes take an event in our lives that’s so awful, so bad, that we basically edit it out of our minds. Only, no matter how much we edit, that event we want to forget will come creeping right back back into our lives in one form or another. I don’t subscribe to this point of view, because I’m of the mind that bad things happen, and they stay in the past. Most of the time we simply have to move on. But sometimes, just sometimes, it isn’t that way. And that’s one of the themes in the film. Confronting the sins of the past. Confronting that monster that’s hiding in your proverbial closet. Like Oldboy, you get the feeling that there is some mastermind pulling the strings, always one step ahead of our protagonists. Trying to make them suffer so they can pay for what they did.

To me, this film was commenting on all sorts of things, it was heavy with themes. Exploring these themes and ideas are Haneke’s main concern with Cache. He isn’t even really concerned with delivering a completely satisfying thriller, he would rather expose you to his ideas so that you may look upon them, like a mirror. And speaking of ideas, the idea of a watcher, examining this family also reminded me of another film. I’m talking of Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q (2001). Don’t know how many of you have seen that particular film, but basically, its about this godlike being that suddenly starts to live amongst a family, like a silent watcher, criticizing many things that are wrong in the family circle.

This to me was Haneke’s main objective. The point is not who is the watcher and what is his purpose. Like Miike’s Visitor Q, what Haneke really wants is for you to look at this family and see what is wrong with it. In many ways, this silent watcher plays the role of an all powerful god watching over us, making us see what it is that we are doing wrong. And at times making us pay for our wrong doings, in this sense, the film is very much a morality play. What is the right thing to do? What did you do wrong? And how are you going to pay for it?

Cast and crew work out a scene with Haneke

In this film, we explore a family that is slowly but surely growing apart, to the point where they don’t really know each other anymore. The dynamics between parent and child are explored. Do you really know your children and where they are, what they are doing? Who they talk to? Or have you grown so comfortable in your complacency that you aren’t aware of what is going on in each others lives? Haneke’s film is not a conventional film by any standards. It has many elements that some might consider too “artsy fartsy” or slow paced. This is a movie that takes its time. There are shots that simply linger on and on, they might test your patience. Haneke challenges you to really look at his film and figure out what it is that matters in the shot. Some might calle that boring, others might call it art.  “Look through the scene and you shall find” is what I always say. The message lies hidden within Haneke’s powerful social critique.

Rating: 4 out of 5
OldboyLost HighwayVisitor Q+Cache (Hidden)


Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

I remember seeing "Hidden" during my undergraduate years at a local art cinema and on the big screen, with an audience, it was a powerful experience. Haneke is mostly concerned with the philosophical exploration of spectatorship (see also Funny Games & Benny's Video) and the moral questions of watching and to be watched...and importantly how we as an audience do this. It is very manipulative cinema. "Hidden" also has a subtext about the Alergian war which gives it added value...good work as always!

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks Shaun, I am always interested in learning about a directors favorite themes. It lets me know what they are mostly concerned with, and why they transmit that through their films on a constant basis.

I am now going to watch his Funny Games, and then Im watching the remake as well, just to see how it compares.

I hear its a big "fuck you" to audiences who enjoy watching horror movies.

Thanks for commenting!

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

If like me you're not a big fan of smart arse self reflexive and self conscious art cinema you might not like Funny Games. I'd certainly recommend viewing it, but you might like Benny's Video more, I certainly do. Funny Games is more of a big 'fuck you' to screen violence in general. Maybe thats another reason why I wasnt keen on it; I love violent movies.

Franco Macabro said...

I love violent movies as well. I mean, I can have fun with violence in movies, because I know its not real. But I can certainly see the dangers in it for someone who doesnt know how to diferentiate fantasy from reality.

But yeah, Ive read that essentially, Haneke is saying "you guys are sick for watching this" but hey, guess what, he is the one whos making the violent film, so whos wrong now?

I never watched the remake when it came out because I was worn out on the "lets break into the families home and fuck with them" scenario, its been done to death. But then I learned it was Haneke involved so suddenly Im interested.

Right now, Haneke is my new favorite curiosity, my final say on him and his films are still in the air since Ive only seen Cache, but so many people are going goo goo for his movies, that Im curious.

I mean, White Ribbon's gotten some insanely good reviews. And a great deal of his movies have won awards of all kinds on all sorts of festivals, so my interest is peaked. What can I say.

I love that about watching movies, discovering a whole new batch of films from a new director Id never heard of.

Simon said...

Funny Games, I think, took the concept of Benny's Video and Cache to the extreme, not even bothering to hide the audience's participation. Haneke might either despise his audience, or wants to get a rise out of them. That's not a bad thing, it's just a thing.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree Simon, he just wants to get a reaction from audiences, get them talking, thinking. Agree, it aint a bad thing. But I guess some audience members might get insulted in some way.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I am still a huge fan of FUNNY GAMES< and while I have heard this name come up repeatedly I have never checked it out, will be sure to look in to it Franco, even though I friggin hated LOST HIGHWAY! =D

Franco Macabro said...

This shares some similarities with Lost Highway in premise, but as far as mood and themes go, its a whole other thing. Its like Lost Highway but without the ultra weird stuff.


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