by Michael Haneke
This is the kind of film you can enjoy in one viewing, but is so rich in subtle clues that you kind of feel like you want to go back a second time to notice all the detail.
This Austrian-French production tell the story of a Parisian family and the destabilization of their lives when they start to receive a series of surveillance tapes of them from an anonymous source.
What I appreciate about this film is its play on the subjective and objective camera, of being watched and being a viewer. He establishes this play on the audience from the first shot that is a several minute stationary long take, and just when you’ve settled into thinking “Okay this is going to be a really slow film and apparently there’s something key to the story here in this shot I’m supposed to be paying attention to. . .” VCR pause lines appear on the screen and after a few rewinds we’re suddenly in the beginning of the suspense build up with the characters.
Visually the film has some beautiful moments too–many scenes done in striking silhouettes.
The film is also an interesting exploration of racism in France and post-colonial dynamics. However, it’s done primarily still from a position of white guilt. I don’t want to spoil much about the plot, so I won’t say much more on this other than I did appreciate how the story took the larger question of shared education and resources and showed how it played out on a personal level.
I would love to see an response to this film by an Algerian director, the same story but told with the Algerian characters as the central characters whose internal lives and minds we have access to as an audience. A direct dialogue with this film.
This film apparently has some crazy mystery reveal in the last shot under the credits as they run–but my screen was too small for me to see it quite right. Other people attest that the big clue is actually a third of the way through the film in a subtle shot. Since I’m attempting not to spoil it I’ll just say, google it once you’ve watched it! This review by Roger Ebert is a great starting place for the debates on the mystery presented in the film.