The first five minutes of Caché (Hidden) consists of a wide static shot of the exterior of an apartment building. We see pedestrians pass by, a car park, and a person exit the front door. There's no music or dialogue; just the sounds of car engines, birdsong, and the occasional city noise. When we finally do hear a conversation, it becomes apparent that they are studying the same segment of film that we've been watching, and that said piece of film is actually a surveillance tape of their home that had been anonymously delivered to their doorstep. It is then that we meet George and Anne Laurent ( Auteuil and Binoche), the terrified subjects of a voyeuristic obsession.
George, a successful television personality, thinks he knows who the source of the mysterious tapes is, but can't bring himself to share this with Anne as it would involve revealing a childhood secret that he's not entirely proud of. However, as the situation worsens, George confronts his past with tragic results, and the part of his past he'd hid to keep his family together may be the very thing that tears them apart.
Never has a film in which so little actually happens captivated me so much. Caché moves at an almost agonizingly quiet and deliberate pace, with a verit é -meets-dogme style, and no music or score to speak of. It's a daring and provocative style of filmmaking – one that effortlessly draws the viewer into the world, yet one that will inevitably turn off viewers expecting the sort of suspense that many critics have compared Michael Haneke's film to; Caché has more in common with Lars von Trier than Alfred Hitchcock.
This film is more of a character study than a thriller, with the focus on how the Laurent's react to their circumstances, rather than the pursuit of a resolution to them, showing us glimpses of George's shameful past actions, hinting at possible infidelities, and shattering the illusion of the perfect family that the Laurent's have worked so hard to create.
Binoche and Auteuil turn in terrific and vulnerable performances, creating truly organic characters that blossom under Haneke's unflinching camera eye. This is a film that is, at times, uncomfortable to watch, but only because the director is so successful in placing the viewer in the role of voyeur. And, as the film moves along toward its jarring conclusion (one designed to make the viewer think rather than offer anything resembling a satisfying coda), we are drawn further into this world, hanging on every desperate moment.
While Caché may not appeal to everyone (the person I watched this with found it boring, and was especially let down by the film's conclusion), I found it to be a truly absorbing and fiendishly clever piece of filmmaking.