Cache explores a little-known footnote in French history by focusing on the story of one man’s guilt. On the surface, Cache operates as a classic whodunit. Look closer, however, and what you get is an allegory that speaks to the conscience of a first world nation. Despite offering a moral, it manages to avoid moralizing. But what atrocities does it refer to specifically?
- Director: Michael Haneke
- Writer: Michael Haneke
- Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou
Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) is a respected television talk show personality married to Anne (Juliette Binoche). Together, they are raising their son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). They live a busy yet stable life, until mysterious videotapes begin arriving at their apartment. Each videotape is basically creepy surveillance-type footage of their own home. Realizing that someone is watching them, the suspense begins. Is this a threat? Forced to revisit his past, Georges responds to these videotapes by following their clues, eventually arriving at the apartment of Majid (Maurice Benichou), an Algerian man whose parents worked for Georges’ family before they were killed in the Paris Massacre of 1961.
As Georges demands explanations, Majid denies any involvement with the videotapes. Convinced that Majid is lying, Georges begins to plunge into self-doubt. As he launches into a desperate search for answers, Cache leaves things open-ended. The performances of each character are not only convincing, they are precise. You learn information as it is learned by Georges and his family, without being privy to the thoughts or motivations of others. Dialogue is often heard off-screen, focusing instead on what is being observed. The story evolves as a first-hand guilt trip. As it turns out, Georges once shared part of his childhood with Majid. The nature of that relationship and how it ended is at the center of why Majid might be seeking Georges’ attention now.
As we learn more about their history together, whether Georges is to blame for any previous wrongdoing is not as important as the fact that Georges has fallen into a morality journey, plagued by a quiet and nagging guilt. We get first-rate suspense, without the need for an over-dramatized investigation. In the end, Georges will be led into witnessing a horrendous act that will drive his guilt further. What is interesting here is that by telling a focused story about a successful French family man, director Michael Haneke explores a more deeply-rooted set of issues involving French society without ever getting on a soapbox about it.
Brief Words for Mr. Ebert:
Mr. Ebert, your review is wise in avoiding some of the subject matter beneath the surface of this family mystery. Although this isn’t an overt political film, it is effective in making us contemplate guilt and the historic relationship between France and former-colonized Algeria, specifically, the atrocities committed against Algerian protestors in France during the Algerian War. After watching Cache, audiences will be more likely to remember that 200 Arabs bodies were once pulled from the River Siene, despite never actually being shown those images. After reading both of your reviews, it is clear that there is much you’ve gained with repeated viewings. The best example of this is when you draw our attention to a shot that takes place around 20:39 into the film. I too missed this shot the first time, and it speaks directly to the kind of intricate and multi-layered storytelling that director Haneke provides. Considering the intimate locations and grounded interactions of its characters, I believe this is a film that will hold-up beautifully over time, quite possibly becoming “great” in the process.
Good, Bad or Great Movie: GOOD
Do you like Cache? Do you consider this film to be Good, Bad, or does it stand up as Great?
Next week’s review: La Belle Noiseuse
Years ago, ScreenCrave contributor Jaime Lopez privately began tackling Roger Ebert’s “Greatest Films” list, an ever-expanding monolith of celluloid currently comprised of approximately 354 films. Lopez has set himself to put these remaining films’ “Greatness” to the test–reviewing both the movies themselves and Ebert’s response. By taking on Michael Haneke’s Cache this week, he now has 289 under his belt and less than 100 films left to go.