Hidden is a fat free, knife sharp thriller. Tense and nerve shreddingly raw. As ambiguous and inexplicable as the real world it portrays.
The set up concerns Georges and Anne, a suburbanite, fiercely intellectual, middle class couple with a twelve year old boy (Pierrot). They begin to receive videotapes showing their house under surveillance from an anonymous source. This further weakens an already shaky marriage as the tapes may have links to Georges’ past.
Endangering the middle class is a theme Haneke has visited before. The Herculean task of making Funny Games twice (which can’t have been fun surely) points to a mind with a bit of distaste for those of a bourgois persuasion. Or maybe he just knows who his audience is and just wants to heighten the peril for his mainly white, middle class fans. In the same way that slasher films consist of teenagers getting offed for the delight of fourteen year olds on first dates.
The whole film has the feel of a slasher film (stay with me at the back) but with all the supernatural (silly) bits removed. No one wears a silly mask or is in two places at the same time or has any ability to recall previous vacation periods and what happened on them, but the premise is the same. The whole “I’m watching you” conceit is familiar and the disturbing recollections from Georges childhood wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Craven piece. Hidden remains superior to that oversubscribed genre by firmly grounding itself in a very real world. The minutae of Georges and Anne’s relationship is expertly handled by the actors creating a totally believable couple struggling to understand why they are the victims. Throw in some French guilt about their nations treatment of Algerians and the film’s serious edge and social commentary come to the fore leaving a bitter taste that lingers. By the end it is questionable exactly who the victims are and who is responsible for the crimes commited.
Doing a lot with a little is probably written through every strand of Michael Haneke’s DNA. Hidden is serious, austere film making, you can tell this because the camera never moves and no one fucking smiles (also part of Haneke’s gene code). It would be interesting to know whether Haneke starts with a huge lump of backstory, plot and exposition and whittles it down until every scene is vital and every shot propels the story along or if these careful constructs just pop into existence fully formed. Either way has the same end results and who are we to complain?
So, a filmaker who primarily appeals to critics, cinephiles and people with emotional problems (critics and cinephiles), making films that cut modern life to the bone. Skewering and satirising everything without a knowing wink to the audience or a gentle hug at the end. Enjoyable? Probably not. Necessary? Definately.