Starring:- Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou, Lester Makedonsky, Walid Afkir, Annie Giradot, Daniel Duval, Bernard Le Coq.
Directed by:- Michael Haneke.
Imagine yourself sitting alone in an empty train compartment, staring straight ahead. You might whip up a book or plug into your earphones to pass the time; or much better, doze off. Even when you are exploring the deep abyss of sleep, you feel something – someone staring at you, thanks to that feeling we feel when someone does so. You come out of your sleepy chasm and look around to realize that there’s no one around. You go back to explore your gorge when the stony walls illuminate with your sleepy antics on the train – you being an inane spectator of your stimulating exploration, with nefarious undertones making their way to the fore.
That’s what Georges, played with a fierce intellectualism by Daniel Auteuil and Anne Laurent, played by a brawny yet fragile Juliette Binoche, become when they find a series of tapes wrapped in grotesque artworks at their doorstep. Both of them are affluent – Georges being a talk show host and Anne working at a well-known publishing house, and have a son named Pierrot (Makedonsky). The tapes are recordings of their house from the outside, shot from a point which should be visible to the family, but isn’t. The grotesque artworks prove to be a peephole into Georges’ turbulent past regarding an Algerian immigrant named Majid, played with a muted strenuousness by Maurice Benichou, who was very near to become his half-brother, later him being adjudged as the main suspect. The tapes reach places they aren’t meant to reach, raising the terror to new heights. After a bout of shocking twists and turns, Cache reaches an ending so magnificent that it makes us doubt our experience, setting our brains on fire.
Michael Haneke is one of the best filmmakers working today. I was initially skeptical about his stature, most possibly because of his snobbish attitude towards absolutely everything. His movies are like dark alleyways, embodying our deepest secrets and desires with a lone streetlight striving to illuminate them all. Cinema mostly ignores these alleyways, and that’s exactly why we should thank Haneke, because he’s the guy who gave those alleyways prominence by illuminating them with strobe lights and demolishing them in an instant. Cache seems to be the longest one he has destroyed, with the dustbins spewing out garbage in a serene manner, represented by the tape footage in the movie, showing the terrifying undertones of the world as we know it in the most honest manner possible.
The couple is typically bourgeois, often turning a blind eye towards the worldly matters. They inadvertently consider themselves as the epitome of France or of any progressive society which knows its limits. The truth is, it does not. The Laurents’ house, like many other in such developed countries, serve as a facade to murky pasts who are on their way to come out of their poorly dug graves. They know how to keep their cool, until such predicaments crash their way into their consummately peaceful life.
Its great to see how Haneke dissects his characters with such clinical precision, peeling them layer by layer till their internals are reeling out. Georges, for example, is an intellectual on the outside and an arrogant bastard on the inside. It is beautifully shown as the movie progresses. His racist outlook is presented when he derides a cyclist for driving too close to him whereas in reality, it’s his fault. Georges doesn’t like to be wronged and doesn’t like to repeat himself, much to the disdain of those surrounding him.
Anne, on the other hand is a shrouded entity. The tapes make her strenuous and it is raised to an all-time high when Georges doesn’t want to reveal his hunch about who’s sending these tapes. It feels as if the tapes have served their purpose early on in the movie – to escalate the tension and make the couple turn against each other, symbolically representing the distrust between the different stratas of a progressive society. The parents’ affluence and mundane approach towards a family life has increased the emotional distance between each other, raising the notions of infidelity and distrust to a different level.
Cache’s ending is one of the most brilliant endings of all time for sure. It’s magnanimity lies in the fact that the subjects are truly hidden in plain sight, verifying the movie’s title in the most surreptitious manner possible. We find ourselves at the staircase of a school where Majid’s son and Pierrot meet and talk for a minute. In my personal opinion, their meeting personifies the new generation which is willing to bury the atrocious past behind them and looking forward to a gloriously united future. As this is a Haneke movie and the scene looks like the tapes we’ve been watching throughout the movie, different interpretations on the lines of sinisterness can be made. The ending seems familiar yet distant with respect to the movie’s foreboding environment, which does justice to what we’ve experienced for the last 2 hours.
There are different interpretations, sure, some with truly sinister undertones, but if Haneke comes across these countless blog posts and explainers of the ending and the movie as a whole, he’ll surely feel content with his work because that was his intention all along. Cache perfectly feels like an exegesis on people’s impotence in living life, coping with guilt and regret, creating their own definitions for a materialistic lifestyle; in this case, France in its entirety. It feels as if Cache is pointing towards the muted aftermath of the 1961 Seine massacre, which still serves as a dark blotch on France’s reputation. Cache is also a commentary on France’s superfluous presence in violent problems, shown in the background in the form of a news bulletin, showing France taking an interest in things in which it should not meddle in, or simply should not waste it’s time and resources on.
One question will remain on everyone’s lips once they finish watching Cache – Who sent the tapes? Was it Majid? Or his technically more enlightened son? Was it Pierrot in collaboration with Majid’s son, taking revenge from their fathers for destroying their lives and coaxing them into a life built on lies and deceit? Is it a perky neighbor who just wants to stress them out or one of Pierrot’s friends playing a dirty prank? Is it Georges? Is it Anne? Is it Georges’ manager? Is it God? Is it Haneke himself? Is it us? The answer is… None. There’s no use in searching for answers when we have questions presented to us in such beauty and precision.
Then what about the reckless annihilation of the bourgeois existence of the Laurents? The best thing about Cache is that Haneke has both questions to ask and answers to give regarding the meaning of each and every shot of the movie. Near the ending, Georges goes to sleep after guzzling down a couple of sleeping pills in the afternoon, signifying the perpetual perspective of such people after such harrowing turn of events. They are back to their cozy shell, after sighing in relief and interacting with the world in a newly-found manner.
Haneke leaves them with severe acrimony, chastising them for remaining as they were even when their life was close to be toppled over due to their actions. Is it because this is the only way they can cling onto civilization, by hugging and spooning their sophisticated presence in the society? Thus Cache, aided with heavyweight performances and Christian Berger’s excellent cinematography, ends with a thin strand of hope, hope that everything will change for good, in Haneke style.