the most difficult films to review are the ones that may be great, but for unclear reasons. films that affect you, make you think, and are well-constructed, yet still, somehow, evade easy analysis. cache, directed by michael haneke, is like some of abbas kiarostami’s better films (namely a taste of cherry and the wind will carry us) – films that are somehow able to teach without being didactic and say something without being overly specific. we get impressions, ideas, and brushstrokes of a master’s work while being spared the overt didacticism that sinks so many films which try to make a point. at the same time it manages to not turn into syriana, which suffered from a lack of character and plot development.
but let me bring it back a bit…the film follows a family (man, woman, son) who begin to get tapes and drawings left on their front door. the tapes are simple shots of their house from the outside and the drawings depict a boy with blood coming out of his mouth. it’s all very mysterious at first, but haneke slowly reveals the hidden layers which illuminate the mystery – or do they? it’s a difficult plot to summarize, especially without giving the film away completely. as the film progresses the tapes get more personal and the husband and wife are pulled apart by the things the husband hides from her. adding another layer to the film is the fact that the protagonists are french and the apparent maker of the tape is an algerian from the husband’s past.
in one critical scene, wherein the parents discover their child missing, news coverage of the current iraqi war is on the television in the background. in doing this, haneke expands his exploration of the effects of colonialism as portrayed in this more personal form. first he has the french-algerian aspect, and here he adds a more modern context to the discussion. but the film isn’t just about politics. that’s only one element of the multi-faceted story haneke has crafted. also bubbling underneath are more immediate issues of trust, loyalty and the future. i draw the kiarostami parallel because all three films have unconventional (by american standards) endings. in cache we see the son of the algerian and the son of the protagonists talking in the distance, but we don’t know what they’re saying or how much time has passed. what exactly is said, though, isn’t that important. we see the two sons get along much better than their fathers, and that’s the important point. despite the harsh way in which haneke depicts the husband and wife (representing the bourgeoisie), maybe he holds hope for the future. or, maybe, this is the most paranoia producing scene in the film. maybe the sons were in cahoots the entire time. i don’t think it’s really possible to know.
stylistically the film is stripped down. there is no music and the sound design is very organic, again like a kiarostami film. like kurosawa, haneke employs contrasts throught the picture. long, slow, dark scenes will be followed by more busy, brighter scenes. his edits in these cases are harsh and jarring. another style/editing choice was the way he introduced the new tapes that were sent to the protagonists. we would get an exterior shot of their flat for a minute or two and then it would pause, rewind and they would speak over it. in this way, haneke, in a sense, is telling us that we can’t believe what we see. throughout the first 2/3 of the film there are scenes of this kind. later, when the husband is editing some footage for his television show, there is a shift. is he controlling the film’s action now, or is this where he loses control?
it’s a cryptic film to be sure and there is no clear resolution, but that doesn’t make the film any less engrossing while you’re watching it. it does make it all the more maddening afterwards, but i don’t really have a problem with that. maybe that’s the point. this is definitely the kind of film that needs to be watched again.Watched in theater