“You have too much to lose.”
The theme in the French film Cache is guilt and responsibility–and the theme is developed slowly and subtly along with the plot. The film begins with footage of a nice upper-middle class home in a fairly quiet section of Paris. Nothing really happens for a few moments, and then all of a sudden, the footage of the videotape–and that’s what we’ve been watching–reverses. It seems that middle-aged married couple Georges and Anne Laurent (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) are watching a videotape they’ve just received with footage of their home. Just who sent the tape and why it was sent is a mystery. There is no note–no explanation–just the tape and the unsettling conclusion that someone is watching them.
More tapes arrive along with child-like drawings that hint of something horrific. With the police unwilling to do anything to intervene until something actually happens, the Laurents mull over how to react. Strangely enough, Georges, instead of working together with his wife to find some sort of solution, clams up, and becomes secretive. While tension mounts in their marriage, Georges tries to put the pieces of the puzzle together and solve the mystery on his own.
Cache (this means hidden in French) explores the notion of guilt–and not just Georges’ guilt–but collective French guilt towards their treatment of the Algerians. The Laurents are both gifted intellectuals–Anne works for a publisher and is proud of a book she just saw published about globalization. Georges hosts a popular television programme about literature. They live in an immaculate modern home with walls of books, and host friends for chatty, intellectually stimulating evenings. But beneath this surface of correctness, in reality, Georges is a smug, self-satisfied man who refuses to examine his past actions, his responsibility, and his subsequent guilt. Gradually the film explores the idea that a single act can affect the lives of several generations. The film’s use of videotape underscores the notion that sometimes what we see is just a facsimile of the real thing, and this, of course, extends to the idea that sometimes how we appear to be is a fairly decent facsimile of the real thing too.
DVD extras include an interview with Austrian director Michael Haneke who explains that the idea for the film was inspired by a real-life event that took place in Paris in October 1961, when during a peaceful demonstration, an unknown number of Algerians were brutally murdered by the police and dumped in the Seine. Haneke cleverly weaves other politically unstable, global situations in the film through television footage broadcast in the Laurents’ home. Warning: there is one extremely graphic and disturbing scene involving a chicken. This is not a film for everyone, and while it’s thought provoking, exactly how much you enjoy it may depend on your acceptance of a film that really offers no solid ending. For Auteuil fans, the role of Georges Laurent allows the phenomenal French actor to display his considerable talent.