LIKE MOST MICHAEL HANEKE films, ‘Caché’ is worth watching for its supreme patience alone. By alternating between static tape footage and a director’s camera, Haneke must weave between worlds like a docu-dramatist. Half of our insight into ‘Caché’ comes from this tape footage, which the characters watch just as we do, but feels foreign and distinct from their personal lives. The other half stems from Haneke guiding the camera in a more traditional manner, enveloping the viewer like a character in the film that no one addresses, but everyone accepts. In this sense, Haneke’s commitment to his subject is absolute: no more explanation than is absolutely necessary, no winking close-ups on incriminating details, or a suggestive music bed to instruct us how to react. When we receive so much instruction on how to feel about a film, it becomes easier to stop feeling anything at all. ‘Caché’, conversely, grants us so few tips that we are compelled to pay attention.
And it is important to distinguish the film’s generosity with its tips (non-existent) versus other features: cinematography, pacing, a natural sense of dialogue, realistic characters portrayed by perfectly real people. In all these regard, ‘Caché’ is a treasure trove. But satisfaction—at least as defined in the traditional ‘whodunit’ tales—is absent. And this is part of the film’s point, since it is more a study of guilt than a mystery in need of a tell-all climax to show off its clever mastermind. Rather, Haneke shows off his cleverness by rejecting such a conclusion, deliberately not answering many of the questions he posed throughout the film, neither to us nor the characters themselves. And if this futility had been sold a little more thoroughly, ‘Caché’ would have been a complete instead of merely qualified pleasure. In teasing us for the entire film, only to yank away the prize and dance about with it for years to come (in coy interviews, etc.), Haneke seems to undermine his objectives. If ‘Caché’ is about guilt, not a solution, why drive the focus ever back to the perpetrator, and not the victim? As it is, our weary protagonist Georges suddenly exhausts all his investigative efforts and collapses into an ambiguous slumber, no more resolved than when he began. As do we.