France-Austria-Germany-Italy 2004, 117 mins
Director: Michael Haneke

SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.

At a formal level, Michael Haneke’s Hidden contemplates one of the fundamental questions of filmmaking: where to put the camera. Watching the anonymous videos of their Paris home sent to Georges and Anne Laurent, we can’t help wondering, like the couple themselves, exactly where they were filmed from. In the three-minute static shot that opens the movie, Haneke surely provides a clue for us by placing his viewpoint somewhere that, in strictly realistic terms, it could not possibly be: seemingly fixed in mid-air in the street opposite the Laurents’ home (its appropriately optical name is Rue des Iris). Later, we find ourselves becoming anxious – to the point of pedantry, if not of paranoia – to locate the hidden camera on the back wall of the flat of Majid, the Algerian orphan who Georges’ parents had once planned to adopt. Is that it next to the laundry basket, or are we imagining things?

Yet such tantalising hints at rational explanation are destined to frustrate. To ask where the camera is, surely, is no more useful than to ask who sent the tapes (a question that exercised journalists to the point of agitation at the film’s first press conference in Cannes). That we worry about such things is not, however, a matter of missing the point: we simply find ourselves in the same anxious position as Georges, who grasps at every possible clue, but whose every action or reaction gets him deeper embroiled in a labyrinth that proves to be of his own making.

Much as we are inclined to sympathise with the bourgeois protagonists in Hidden, Haneke typically makes such identification problematic. Georges and Anne are presented as critical mirrors to the audience: the Laurents and their sophisticated circle are precisely the kind of people whom Haneke can count on to go and see his films. Although presented as an ostensibly coherent psychological thriller, Hidden is really the latest of Haneke’s portraits of the bourgeois European family and its discontents: the Laurents are close relations not only of the brutalised holidaymakers in Funny Games but also of the violently imploding Austrian families in The Seventh Continent (1989) and Benny’s Video (1992).

Once again, the family’s sense of self is regulated by the media: Georges is a professional cultural arbiter, Anne an editor at an apparently prestigious publishing house. The host of a television literary discussion show, Georges’ job is to be visible; yet he feels brutalised when observed at close quarters in a way that he can’t control – a paradox heightened by Haneke’s astute casting of two of France’s most charismatic and recognisable stars, Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, as Georges and Anne.

The Laurents live a privileged life, with French highbrow culture offering a form of social protection: Georges’ bookshelves, both the real ones at home and the trompe-l’oeil ones in the TV studio, resemble fortified walls. The confident sense of exclusivity shared by the couple and their circle is very much a product of performance. In one memorable scene one character, played by the priceless Denis Podalydès, holds forth for three minutes with a ludicrous shaggy-dog story to amuse a dinner party (and to bring welcome relief to the film’s mounting tension).

Hidden accuses the French intelligentsia – and, by extension, Western society – of a concerted denial of political and social reality. The film is partly inspired by a specific incident that has tainted modern French history (a taint symbolically replicated in the spilled blood motif that adorns the mysterious drawings Georges receives along with the anonymous videotapes): the violent police action that met a 1961 Paris demonstration against French policy in Algeria. It was during this incident that the parents of Majid are presumed to have died.

As it happens, Hidden was released in France just as it was rocked by the eruption of a wave of rioting that spread across the country from its disadvantaged suburbs. Georges’ great step into the unknown is, appropriately, a visit to a flat on the outskirts of Paris, where, just as he insists on taking control, he starts to lose it definitively. This loss of control, and of perspective, is signalled by his conviction that his family is being ‘terrorised’: the only way he can view the adoptive Arab brother of his childhood, whose removal to an orphanage was the direct result of younger Georges’ lies, is as a terrorist.

The film could easily seem judgemental: like Georges, the viewer might ask why he should be punished for something he did as a six-year-old. The issue, however, is not the child’s crime but the adult’s refusal to acknowledge guilt. Confronted by Majid’s son, Georges bristles. ‘You’ll never give me a bad conscience,’ he says. ‘I’m not to blame.’ Haneke’s attack, then, is on a culture of denial, of militant mauvaise foi. The film climaxes, after this encounter, in an extraordinary act of blanking out the world: Georges retreats to his bedroom, draws the curtains and goes to bed. This action, the viewer can’t but notice, is similar to that of attending the cinema, and Haneke’s implied message is that we can use film either to deny reality or to face it head on. Similarly, Georges’ first act after the adult Majid commits suicide is to take refuge at the movies. One of the several films on show at the cinema he visits is Deux Frères (Two Brothers), an ironically appropriate choice following his denial of kinship with Majid.

The question of who is sending the tapes remains unanswered, although there are several teasing possibilities. Yet there is no conclusive literal explanation, nor should there be: Haneke, after all, has adapted Kafka for the screen; and, for all its concrete realism, Hidden, no less than The Castle (1997), demands to be viewed as parable – arguably, as Haneke’s most rigorous yet.
Jonathan Romney, Sight and Sound, February 2006

Director/Un film de: Michael Haneke
©/Presented by: Films du Losange (Paris), Wega-Film, Bavaria-Film, BIM Distribuzione
A co-production with: Arte France Cinéma, France 3 Bordeaux, ORF Film/Fernseh-Abkommen, ARTE, Westdeutscher Rundfunk
With the participation of: StudioCanal, Canal+, Centre national de la cinématographie, Österreichisches Filminstitut, Filmfonds Wien, Filmstiftung NRW With the support of: Eurimages Conseil de l’europe
Executive Producers: Michael Katz, Margaret Ménégoz
A Production by (Paris): Margaret Ménégoz
A Production by (Vienna): Veit Heiduschka
Co-producers: Michael Weber, Valerio De Paolis
France Line Producer: Brigitte Faure
Austria Line Producer: Michael Katz
France Production Administrator: Amira Chemakhi
Austria Production Co-ordinator: Ulrike Lässer
Unit Production Manager: Grégory Valais
Unit Manager: Grégory Bruneau
French Assistant Unit Managers: Marie Elise Chocroun, Emmanuelle Jacobson Roques, Tosé Riesser, Sébastien Delepine, Laurent Lemonnier, Alexandre Vernerey
Location Managers: Thomas Pitre, Peter Ecker
Additional Location Manager: Stéphane Guerreau
France Production Administrator: Tahiri Alaoui
Austria Production Administrator: Christa Preisinger
Director of TV Scenes: François Verzelev 1st Assistant Directors: Alain Olivieri, Katharina Biró
2nd Assistant Directors: Moritz von Blücher, Kathrin Resetarits
Additional Assistant Directors: Olivier Marty, Florence Faure
Script Supervisor: Jean Baptiste Filleau
Casting Director: Kris Portier de Bellair
Scenario: Michael Haneke
Dialogue: Michael Haneke
Director of Photography: Christian Berger
Steadicam Operator: Carlos Cabecerán
Gaffers: Walter Stöger, Olivier Neveu
Visual Effects Supervisor: Geoffrey Kleindorfer
Special Effects: Philippe Hubin, Denis Le Doyen, Hubert Devinck, Geoffrey Kleindorfer
Editors: Michael Hudecek, Nadine Muse
Additional Editors: Alarich Lenz, Soazic Veillon
France Art Director: Emmanuel de Chauvigny
Austria Art Director: Christoph Kanter
Set Decorator: Jérémie Duchier
Properties: Wouter Zoon, Katrin Huber
France Construction Manager: Bernard Chenevier
Austria Construction Manager: Fritz Martan
Costumes: Lisy Christl
Key Costumer: Tess Hammami
Make-up/Hairstylists: Thi Loan Nguyen, Joël Lavau, Laurent Bozzi
Special Make-up Effects: Waldemar Pokromski
Colour Timing: Franz Rabl
Colourist: Willi Willinger
Vienna Laboratory: Listo-Film
Paris Laboratory: Éclair
Cologne Laboratory: CinePostproduktion Geyer
Sound Recordist: Jean-Paul Mugel
Sound Re-recordist: Jean-Pierre LaForce
Sound Effects: Pascal Chauvin
Publicity: Matilde Incerti

Daniel Auteuil (Georges Laurent)
Juliette Binoche (Anne Laurent)
Maurice Bénichou (Majid)
Annie Girardot (Georges’ mother)
Bernard Le Coq (editor)
Walid Afkir (Majid’s son)
Lester Makedonsky (Pierrot Laurent)
Daniel Duval (Pierre)
Nathalie Richard (Mathilde)
Denis Podalydès (Yvon)
Aïssa Maïga (Chantal)
Caroline Baehr
Christian Benedetti
Philippe Besson
Loïc Brabant
Jean-Jacques Brochier
Paule Daré
Louis Do de Lencquesaing
Annette Faure
Hugo Flamigni, Peter Stephan Jungk, Diouc Koma, Marie Kremer, Nicky Marbot, Malik Nait Djoudi, Marie-Christine Orry, Mazarine Pingeot, Julie Recoing, Karla Suarez, Laurent Suire, Jean Teulé

France-Austria-Germany-Italy 2004©
117 mins

The screening on Wed 27 Sep will be introduced by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large

Out of Sight
Fri 1 Sep 20:30; Thu 7 Sep 20:35; Fri 22 Sep 17:55
Girlhood (Bande des filles)
Sat 2 Sep 16:00; Sun 17 Sep 18:30; Mon 2 Oct 18:10
Il bidone (The Swindle)
Sun 3 Sep 12:20; Thu 14 Sep 20:45; Sat 30 Sep 15:40
Hidden (Caché)
Mon 4 Sep 18:00; Thu 21 Sep 20:40; Wed 27 Sep 17:50 (+ intro by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large)
Tue 5 Sep 14:30; Sat 23 Sep 11:45; Sun 1 Oct 15:20; Tue 3 Oct 20:30
The Wind Will Carry Us (Bad mara khahad bourd)
Wed 6 Sep 18:10 (+ intro by Shohini Chaudhuri, Professor of Film Studies, University of Essex); Fri 15 Sep 20:40
Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival)
Fri 8 Sep 14:40; Mon 11 Sep 20:45; Fri 29 Sep 18:00
The Killers
Sat 9 Sep 18:20; Tue 12 Sep 14:30; Mon 18 Sep 20:50
The Maltese Falcon
Sun 10 Sep 11:50; Mon 25 Sep 14:40; Tue 26 Sep 20:55
F for Fake
Wed 13 Sep 18:20 (+ intro by Jason Wood, BFI Executive Director of Public Programmes & Audiences); Thu 21 Sep 18:30
Barry Lyndon
Sat 16 Sep 19:30; Sun 24 Sep 14:30
The Kid with a Bike (Le Gamin au vélo)
Tue 19 Sep 20:45; Tue 26 Sep 18:05
Au revoir les enfants
Wed 20 Sep 18:00 (+ intro by film critic and lecturer Dr Julia Wagner); Thu 28 Sep 20:45

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email