With prices for cinema tickets now reaching ridiculous heights it’s not often I will treat myself to a new release unless it’s something I simply cannot wait for. Instead, I’m happy to content myself with a cheap DVD or a film on TV which may have slipped through my critical net and, believe me, there have been far too many. Whether the films featured here are recent or old I’ll still be providing my honest opinion on them and, with the benefit of hindsight in many cases, may offer a slightly different take to contemporary reviewers.
The past coming back to haunt someone has always been a popular theme in films and is very prominent in Michael Haneke’s Hidden. Throwing in a form of sinister stalking and making the camera very much the star of the film, Haneke has composed an intriguing thriller as a family is targeted with hate mail, but how good is it?
The primary focus is on Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche). Georges has his own literary TV show while Anne works in publishing. The film opens with a shot of the Laurent’s house with traffic and the occasional pedestrian going by. The footage is from a camera fixed in one position on a nearby street and it is soon apparent that this is a videotape that has been sent to Georges. As the film progresses more videotapes are received by the Laurents but the later ones contain violent images in the form of pictures that appear to have been drawn by a child despite their gruesome depictions. After the police have no reason to pursue Georges’ concerns, he begins to have his suspicions about who is behind the tapes but why are they being sent in the first place?
As the plot suggests this is a film where you need to stay focussed as clues appear throughout. While the videotapes begin with footage of the Laurent household, first by day then by night, they soon become more intriguing with shots clearly from a moving car and following a country road to a farm while a later tape shows the way down a particular street, into a nearby building and down a corridor to the doorway of an apartment. Pursuing this lead, Georges meets an Algerian man named Majid (Maurice Benichou) who denies any knowledge of the tapes. Quite sinisterly, the next tape Georges receives is of him speaking with Majid in the apartment! Someone is watching and recording Georges’ every move no matter where he is but if not Majid then who?
Between the footage contained in the many tapes Georges receives is the violent image of a boy with an axe who is coughing up blood. What relevance this has to the film is not revealed until the very end when Georges informs his wife Anne about who has been sending the tapes and the reason why, the truth being an event from Georges’ past that has impacted on the life of his tormentor. The film depicts the inevitable strain on the family given such obvious threats to their safety with Auteuil and the ever reliable Binoche delivering very good performances as the Laurents argue frequently, particularly when Georges keeps some things from his wife and tries to resolve the matter himself. Their son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky), also feels the effects of this turn of events. He begins acting out of character and even disappears at one point!
I found Hidden to be compelling viewing throughout but something seemed to nag at me when the truth about Georges’ past finally came to the fore. The link to his tormentor and what it was he did to earn the constant threats he now faces was a good twist but it somehow didn’t seem enough. My other concern was that given Georges’ actions in the past and their consequences I would have expected his wife to be more condemning of him for the torment it has brought to their family but the matter isn’t taken any further. The film does, however, leave a very intriguing ending even when Georges’ thread of the story seems to have been resolved. Depending on your interpretation there is a suggestion that Georges’ problems are only just beginning and a new enemy is waiting to turn his life upside down.
Hidden is an effective psychological thriller where the camera and its many uses are as integral to the film as the plot. Boasting good performances from its two leads this will keep you engrossed right up to the finale. Though I wasn’t as stunned by the revelations at the end as I had hoped this is still a gripping film from start to finish.
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