Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Wega Films
Director: Michael Haneke
Length: 117 min.
Country: France
Format: 35mm
Date Viewed: 27 February

[I stress that you do not read this review until you have seen Cache. If you haven't seen the film, I'm not sure what you are waiting for. Hurry up and see it; it's an outstanding film with excellent performances and strong directing. This review is essentially nothing but spoilers; you have been warned.]

Most people who have seen Cache seem to be hung up on which person is sending the videotapes, and choose their most likely candidate. Many other people seem to think the tapes are a McGuffin, and that it isn't important who is sending them, only that they are sent. I argue, though, that both camps are wrong. No person is sending the tapes, but the sender is important. The sender is white, middle-class fear - a silent, undefined threat that's looming over suburban houses and families, threatening to tear white "civilized" society apart. The threat is face-to-face confrontation with minorities (specifically Algerian Muslims, as this is France, but it can easily apply to blacks or all Muslims for Americans). These minority groups seem to drive the racist white middle-class crazy with extreme anxiety, maddening them with naive questions of '"what do they want," "why don't they leave us alone."

This feeling is shown explicitly in the scenes with the black cyclist and the entire Majid plot. Notice also the elevator scene; the rightfully agitated Arab gets in and everyone else (all lily white) stiffens and faces forward, afraid of what he might do. The news reports that Georges watches implicitly provides the embattled whites with a plan of action by explicitly telling the white coalition forces fighting in the Middle-East to stand together in order to conquer the Muslim enemy combatants.

But what to make of the end? It's clearly left up to the viewer to decide, and I of course have my own interpretation. When Georges tells Anne about the lies he told to keep Majid from entering his family, keep in mind that he refuses to allow the light to be turned on. Doing so would allow us to scrutinize his face and destroy his chance for an anonymous confession. He confesses his sins in an unused backroom, quietly and with as little fanfare as possible, much like many political leaders do when discussing their imperialistic mistakes (how many of us know of Churchill expressing regret over not creating Kurdistan when carving up the Middle East after WWI?).

The subtext in the second-to-last shot reveals Georges' generation (the currently aged middle and political class) going to sleep, naked and vulnerable behind darkened curtains. Doing this will keep him hidden from the outside world. He is becoming isolationist, much like we can see France becoming, especially when it comes to imperialism in the Middle-East (perhaps they have not forgotten Algeria while we have already forgotten Vietnam). Note that he also demands that his son (generations X and Y) not be too noisy so as to wake the older generation from their head-in-the-sand slumber. Haneke here seems to think that our current middle and political class will soon try to pass the buck onto my generation, allowing us to inherit their messes, and the messes of their fathers and grandfathers before them, but to clean them up without needing to rope our elders back in.

As for the hotly contested and mysterious final shot, I take the view that it is an optimistic ending. The conversation between Majid's son and Pierrot appears to be nothing but friendly - the sons are mending the fences smashed by their fathers. The film thus shows us that we must move past the current racist climate in America and in Europe, or we will reenter the same cycle as Georges and Majid in the film, and our current War on Islam in the real world. Haneke appears to be optimistic, but how will the new generation (i.e. people my age) act in our highly racist climate? Will we act as our fathers or will we move on? We, of course, must immediately take a cue from the sons.

[If you have seen the film, leave some comments. I'd love to hear your interpretations on the ending.]


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