We all need to have a healthy sense of self and sometimes secrets provide us with that feeling of singularity that separates us from the rest of the world. Certain secrets empower us and prevent us from feeling less independent. These are benign secrets as opposed to dark secrets that consume us and need to be disclosed if willing to avoid alienation or isolation. But how do we draw the line between the secrets that we shelter in our souls? Caché (Hidden) is about old secrets that lie under the smug face of comfort.
An unpleasant secret from Georges Laurent's childhood becomes a weapon of psychological terrorism under the form of bloody drawings and videotapes, and throws him back down the memory lane in the days of October, 1961. 200 Algerian protesters -including the parents of Majid, a ten-year old boy, living on the farm of Georges' parents- died at the hands of the Paris police, under the command of the former Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon. Again, as in the other films of Michael Haneke, the bloody hands of history reflect upon the shiny face of the present. Georges (Daniel Auteuil), the host of a literary TV talk show, keeps secrets from his wife, Anne (Juliette Binoche), who works in the publishing business and their 12-year-old son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) hides things from them, too.
Georges and Anne's cosy, comfortable existence is shaken by the feeling that they are constantly watched for no obvious reason. The tapes lead Georges to an apartment where the grown-up Majid lives with his son, yet the confrontation sheds no light upon the aggressor's identity or motifs. We are left hanging once again, suspecting everyone and assuming all kinds of scenarios. Pierrot's disappearance for 24 hours comes as a shock to the scared parents who once again blame Majid and his son. The boy is brought back in the morning by a classmate's mother after having spent the night with him and offers no explanation for his runaway. Georges's visit to his old, sick mother doesn't provide him with the courage he needs to reveal his turmoil or speak about his childhood secret. Once again, the Laurents' comfort seem to be adamant.
People act on different motives and feelings and they would do everything in their power to preserve their uncomplicated existences. Can other people- the Arabs- hate us so much as to feed on their hatred for a lifetime and try to destroy our secure, happy lives? Georges and Anne seem to be two little puppets whose strings are pulled by the guilt and secrets they hide in their minds. Secrets menace their relationship, secrets alienate their son and secrets follow Georges to his workplace, embarrassing him in front of his supervisor. The last scene of the movie in which Majid's son and Georges's son meet and talk leaves us with the impression that someone else is again filming the encounter in an endless game of terror and manipulation.
Again, a movie without a denouement and with a slow pace, which can be viewed either as a political allegory or a domestic drama. The actors work beautifully together, especially the mother- the outstanding Annie Girardot, the tension is accurate, the themes of deep guilt, questionable morality and bloody colonialism are well-marked. Michael Haneke's movie is about the frail balance of western society whose prosperity builds on denial, dark secrets and guilt.