A married couple is terrorized by a series of surveillance videotapes left on their front porch.
Michael Haneke’s Cache (sometimes also referred to as Hidden in the USA and UK) centers around a number of mysterious video tapes being delivered to Anne (Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche; The English Patient, Cosmopolis) and Georges (Daniel Auteuil; The Closet, The Other Woman) Laurent. That their names are Anne and Georges should come as no surprise – this is a Haneke film, after all, and these, in one form or another, are the names of main characters in at least ten of his films, starting back with Variation in 1983 and moving forward, through both versions of Funny Games, all the way up to his most recent, 2017’s Happy End. Like so many of his other films, this is a dark, bleak story that builds tension very subtly through character development and detail rather than action-packed scenes. It also manages to deliver one of the more shocking moments in 21st century cinema to an audience that surely expected something, but certainly not that.
When the Laurents receive the first video, approximately two hours of footage of the front of their house filmed from just down the road, Georges is upset, determined to know who did this and why. Anne would prefer to just get on with her night. The second tape, featuring very similar content but accompanied by what looks like a child’s drawing of a face with blood coming from its mouth, provokes the opposite reaction: Georges writes it off, while Anne shows concern. Soon come anonymous phone calls, and videotapes and drawings start showing up at Georges’ work and at their son’s school (Pierrot, played by Lester Makedonsky; Overdrive).
Tension continues to approach the boiling point as lies and cover-ups over videotapes, Georges’ past, and Anne’s friendship with Pierre (Daniel Duval; Shadow of the Castles, Time of the Wolf) produce distrust and unrest at home. The story seems to reach its crux when a videotape leads Georges to the apartment of Majid (Maurice Benichou; Code Unknown, Amelie), who for a time as a child lived with Georges and his family, but rather than neatly tying things up, this moment instead pushes the story in a drastically different direction.
When it comes to the films of Michael Haneke, at least while looking at them from the realm of the horror fan, the vast majority of attention is devoted to 1997’s Funny Games. Ironically, Haneke has said that film was never meant to be seen as a horror movie. But there’s something to be said about the slow-building tension and terror in Cache; while lacking any kind of supernatural element, it still produces a similar feeling of unknown dread to that of David Lynch’s Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive, or even a film like The Babadook or Ducournau’s Raw. Joel Edgerton’s The Gift has a very similar premise, with both pushing the “home invasion” style of horror/thriller into very personal territory and causing dark secrets to be revealed, but while that film puts its “intruder” right out in the open early and relies on drastic and violent actions, Cache remains quiet and subtle, forcing the audience to simmer in shared paranoia with the on-screen characters till the very end.
Haneke is somewhat of a master when it comes to putting a film together. He’s never afraid to put his audience in an uncomfortable place, whether through his shots or his subject matter. He loves long, still shots – Cache opens with a single, three-minute static shot of the front of a house, the only action seemingly the infrequent passerby.
These kinds of scenes, through the lack of action present, all but convince the viewer there must be something in the frame that we are meant to see, and our eyes frantically search for the clue that has to be there (the film closes with a similar shot that does, indeed, contain very important information). Aside from in-scene music, there is no score to this film, no soundtrack in the background. Seemingly little things like these add up in an unnoticed way, causing further tension in the audience; add in stellar acting across the board and disturbing, dream-like flashbacks, and Cache ends up a memorable achievement in film.
The look of the film is beautiful, the acting is fantastic, and the story keeps the viewer’s attention for the entire 117-minute runtime: it’s not surprising, then, that this is an award-winning film. Multiple nominations and wins, including four awards at 2005 Cannes (including Best Director and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize given at the festival) and Best Foreign-Language Film awards from multiple film critics associations (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Australia, and Chicago), as well as a number of Best Screenplay awards. Cache is a must-see film for fans of French cinema and, really, fans of film in general, and is highly recommended to the average horror fan whose only experience with the work of Haneke has been Funny Games.