“Cache” was written and directed by Michael Haneke who made “Funny Games” (both the original and the remake), “The White Ribbon” and “Amour.” My parents gave me the DVD to this film as a Christmas present, and I went ahead and watched it before going out to see the “Funny Games” remake in theaters. With all the polarizing opinions regarding that film, I felt it was in my best interest to see “Cache” beforehand as I was afraid that if I hated it, then I would never get around to watching the DVD my parents gave me. I have enough trouble as it is watching the other movies they have given me over the years, but this one had a great quote on the DVD cover by Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Like Hitchcock, only creepier.” I read that quote and was immediately intrigued about what this movie had in store for me.
“Cache” opens up with a long and uninterrupted shot of an exterior of the residence the main characters live in which lasts a good three or four minutes. But suddenly we hear voices and eventually realize we are actually watching a videotape along with two people who rewind it at one point. The couple is made up of TV talk show host Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), and they have received this tape from an anonymous person for reasons unknown. As this couple continues to receive more videos, their lives unravel at an increasing rate as the layers of the movie’s story keep getting peeled away.
Describing a movie like this is difficult because its creator makes it ambiguous to the point where we have no choice but to draw our conclusions as to what we have witnessed. These videos reawaken long and dormant memories for Georges as we come to see events from his childhood which may or may not be real, and it uncovers a guilt he thought he had long since made his peace with. But instead, he discovers that deep emotional scar never really disappeared, and now it is being picked at like a nasty scab more than ever before. In the end, it does not matter who is making these videos as much as it does the effect they have on Georges and those closest to him.
It’s clear to me Haneke really likes to play around with the audiences’ expectations. We are so conditioned by the formulaic movies mainstream cinema churns out with consistent regularity to where anything which challenges the norm seems designed to give us unbearable headaches. Those looking for a resolution which tidies up everything to everyone’s satisfaction will be endlessly frustrated with “Cache.” Haneke is not a director interested in spelling out everything for you as he is in trying to get you to figure out the story for yourself.
What is revealed is that Georges did something to another person he never really forgave himself for. Now the past is coming back to haunt him, and it ends up isolating him in his own guilt and fears and alienates him from his family. Anne, Georges’ wife, is incensed she is not being let in on any guesses her husband has as to who might be putting them through such immense anxiety. Georges is never portrayed as a bad person, but it doesn’t matter if he is a good person. Guilt tears away at him, and while some make peace with the past, he may never have that luxury. What’s worse, this guilt may end up being carried on by his son who only has inklings of what is going on between his parents.
Haneke won the Best Director award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival for “Cache,” and it was probably well deserved. He keeps you hooked into the story which is like an onion that keeps being peeled away, and he succeeds in generating strong tension without the use of a music score. In fact, there is little to no music played throughout the entire movie. The only other movie I can think of which succeeded in keeping us on the edge of our seats without the aid of a music score is “The China Syndrome.”
All the performances are excellent without ever being flashy. Daniel Auteuil creates a morally ambiguous character who is not always easy to get along with, but we still care about what he goes through from start to finish. The most recognizable actor here is Juliette Binoche, and her performance is another in a long line of brilliant ones she has given. Binoche makes Anne’s panic and anxiety all the more real as she keeps getting shut out in the cold as to what’s really going on. Also, Maurice Bénichou, who plays a very pivotal character, brilliantly shows how a person can be threating while remaining perfectly calm.
“Cache” is a brilliant exercise in suspense, and it shows how much of a master Haneke in generating suspense. There are no easy answers to be found here, and the ending itself leaves a lot of things open, but not all movies are meant to be easily understood. Some are meant to engage you mentally so you can draw your own conclusions. What’s wrong with having a movie like that every once in a while? We need challenging movies which break the typical formulas dominating most of American cinema today. “Cache” engages you with the unblinking eye of the camera, and it traps you in the world of its characters to where it is impossible to look away. Movies don’t get more suspenseful than this one.
* * * * out of * * * *
Copyright Ben Kenber 2016.