Haneke is a both a film-maker and film-academic. He manages to work these two roles simultaneously to create cinema that gets under the skin and bang the audience’s head out of shape. This is most apparent in FUNNY GAMES (1997), a shocking stalk-and-slash genre film that deconstructs itself by posing a question about the ethics of such films;he remade the film, shot by shot, in English language in 2007, to reach the American audiences that the film is addressing. The thought of the boy dropping eggs through his rubber gloves sends a chill down my spine thinking about it, while at the same time I feel guilty that I allow such films to fetishise violence in an unquestioning manner; Haneke invites a complex, non-emotional and considered response from his audiences.
HIDDEN is one of his most accessible films, mainly due to the excellent performances by Daniel Auteuil as the television presenter who is being tormented by an unknown ‘stalker’ and Juliet Binoche as his wife who is unnerved by the video tapes that are left on the door mat daily and is increasingly perplexed by his response to the crisis.
The opening shot is intriguing. A fixed shot, from a street in Paris, watching the comings and goings of Auteuil’s apartment. As the story unfolds it is clear that the title does not only refer to the hidden cameras that are watching the family. Child-like drawings begin to be included in the packages. Red crayon indicating the splatter of blood invoke a memory infused with guilt from his childhood and his association with an Algerian boy . However, it is not only personal guilt that the film is suggesting, it is French post-colonial guilt over the actions of Parisian Police on la nuit noir, the night of 17th October 1961, when hundreds of Algerian demonstrators were beaten and killed by the police.
The end is typically frustrating by Haneke’s standards, but ultimately ‘true’ to the narrative, as Auteuil retreats into a darkened room, curtains closed, surrounded by books, escaping the horrors of the worlds that have been revealed to him.
As French planes bomb North Africa, this film is a fitting reminder of how the histories are inextricably linked and how we in the West, like to close the curtains and shut it out, so we can carry on with our lives with the horror ‘hidden’.