Release Date: December 23rd, 2005 (NYC-Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Landmark Sunshine Cinema) by Sony Pictures Classics. The Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou, Annie Girardot, Lester Makedonsky.
Directed by Michael Haneke.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: George (Auteuil) and his wife Anne (Binoche) must find the source of surveillance tapes that mysteriously end up at their door.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The very first shot gives you an idea about just how difficult and tricky the rest of the plot will be. For nearly five minutes, the camera lingers on the front entrance of a home from a distance. Meanwhile, you hear voices in the background. All of a sudden, the images fast forward to show that the scene is actually directly from a videotape that George and Anne are watching. Just like in Todd Haynes’ Safe , there’s the combination of drama mixed with mystery and even horror. What could have been a simple, redundant plot feels rather refreshing and even unpredictable as George digs deeper for clues to find who is sending him surveillance tapes of his own house. In a way, there are external and internal conflicts going on at the same time. The external one is the mystery behind the tapes—who is haunting them with the tapes and why? Internally, there’s the gradually deteriorating relationship between George and Anne because of the tape. At one point, Anne believes that her husband must be hiding something, like an affair. But it’s not that simple. More tapes show up with graphically violent drawings that look like were drawn by a child. Unfortunately, the police can’t get involved until there’s hard evidence of a crime. Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil are perfectly cast because they look like an ordinary married couple who you can easily care about. They have a young son who they must protect—and no, he doesn’t see dead people. There’s one very shocking scene in the third act that will cause you to gasp just by the way the scene is edited. Writer/director Michael Haneke creates very tense scenes that keep you guessing until the very end. You never know more than George and Anne do, so you easily join them through their unpredictable, mysterious journey that leads to revelations, chaos, and further revelations. The final, powerful shot will haunt you for many days.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s very thought-provoking to try to link all the pieces of the puzzle together. However, the more you link them together, the more you find yourself perplexed by why such an innocent family must be mentally and physically tormented by an unknown source. Just like in life itself, the answers are not always right in front of you, even when you’re certain about what you see. In reality, we often see just what we want to to see or what our mind “sees”. Sometimes, the answers are found in what’s hidden not only from our senses but from our understanding as well.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: Suspenseful,intellectually-challenging, and haunting!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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