‘What did we suppress in order to become what we are?’

I just finished watching the film Caché (Hidden), directed by Michael Haneke, and starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. I’d seen it once before, during a film festival, and I came out of the theatre completely baffled by what I had seen. Thus, I decided to watch it once again and attempt to further understand the film.

In summary, Georges and his wife Anne receive a series of videotapes, each of which contains a long film exposure of the outside of their house. Later videotapes are wrapped in what appears to be child’s drawings. Over the course of the film, the footage on the tapes becomes more personal and Georges realizes who may be sending the tapes. Discovering the identity of the sender evokes old and guilty memories for Georges.

In an interview provided in the DVD’s special features, Michael Haneke states that the film was meant to discuss and evoke the French and Algerian conflict in the 60s, particularly the deaths of 200 Algerian protesters in the Seine, but to portray this conflict and guilt on a personal level, and to show what sort of things can be swept under the carpet. He compares the ability of a nation to forget or hide tragic things with that of a family or couple able to continue on with domestic life as usual, even though difficult or strange things are occurring. Hence his question: ‘What did we suppress in order to become what we are?’

That question resonated with me. As Haneke points out, Georges as a six year old has acted in a way that is considered normal, his protection of his own status and place in his home, as younger children are not as cognizant of the needs of others. Yet this action by young Georges has lifelong implications for the Algerian boy his parents were caring for. It makes me wonder, what has each person suppressed in their life, things they have done that they are ashamed of, that might crop up later?

As a writer, it intrigues me, and it would be an incredible basis for a story, or an intense back-story for a character. The wounds a person bears have an impact on how they act, and how they live, even years later. For myself as a writer, one of the hardest parts of writing is coming up with that back-story, that wound, and making it such that it colours the actions of the character, intertwining with every part of their being. Haneke’s question is going to become part of my plotting, I’m sure of it.

Are there films that you’ve seen which influence your writing?

2 thoughts on “‘What did we suppress in order to become what we are?’

  1. I HATED Cache. Honestly. It also started my lifelong hate for anything Michael Haneke does. I don’t think it’s arty! I think it is just convoluted and garbled! Also no one can explain to me what actually happened in the film. Why were we just watching hours of video tape with nothing on it? Why was it marketed as a thriller? So many questions. Hahaha, ending my rant on Cache now…

    • The film made more sense after I watched the ‘making of’. Apparently it does have a lot to do with French and Algerian relations, and the French-Algerian war. Haneke basically said that it shows the discomfort of France with what was ‘swept under the rug’ during that time period.

      However, without that interview, I probably would have been puzzled again. But sometimes I don’t go to see films to see straight stories with predictability. This one made me think. 🙂

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