Watching a Michael Haneke movie is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: it’s a process that can be frustrating to some but the accomplishment easily compensates the effort. Caché, Haneke’s masterpiece, epitsomizes that metaphor; it’s a tense thriller whose mystery remains unexplained by the film’s conclusion. The Laurent family (composed of George, Anne, and their son Pierrot) finds tapes of their Paris home along with crude drawings of violence. Future tapes eventually lead George to suspect Majid, the son of an Algerian couple who worked for George’s family over forty years ago. When Majid’s parents are killed in the Paris Massacre of 1961, George’s family wished to adopt Majid, but George, angered at his parents’ decisions, tricks Majid into killing a rooster, causing him to be sent into a foster home. But by Caché’s conclusion, Majid, upon discovering the tapes, commits suicide, and the Laurent family’s mystery is still up in the air.
But the big reveal of Caché may be in front of all our eyes without us knowing it. Caché is all about the details and Haneke stresses that through four different static shots: one of the Laurents’ home, one of Majid’s apartment, one of George’s childhood home, and one of Pierrot’s school. All of these shots appear more than once in Caché and two (the home and apartment) are taped (whether the others are as well is up in the air). The typical length of the static shots is a few minutes as demonstrated by the first scene.
The unusual opening credits sequence well accompany the stillness of the scene; in fact, it’s only until a few minutes do we realize the frame isn’t a photo but a video. Relatively little action happens in this shot (the most important factor is the appearance of George walking out of his home), but it sets up the importance of immobility in Caché.
The final scene of Caché has almost the opposite effect. Taking place on the front steps of Pierrot’s school, the shot sees so much action it’s difficult to focus as so many parents and students interact. Once the credits start rolling over it seems that the scene serves no purpose to the viewer. But the cluttered and chaotic nature of the shot is intentional as there’s one sly detail that may be the reveal to Caché’s secrecy (video below starting at 5:54).
It’s difficult to detect (I didn’t see it the first time), but if you look very carefully at the upper-left section of the staircase, you will see Pierrot talking to Majid’s son, a surprising turn as these two characters shouldn’t recognize each other. Deliberately framed in the background to make it difficult to witness (audiences are more privy to watch the parents in the foreground, waiting to pick up their children), this important aspect suggests that the sons of the involved crafted the mystery of Caché. Or is the whole meeting just a strange coincidence?
The former theory certainly has much viability. Both Pierrot and Majid’s son would be able to take the footage without their parent’s knowledge, plus that would explain that Pierrot’s disappearance midway through the picture was intentional. But how could Majid’s son know the specifics of his father’s childhood (enough to draw the images of a bleeding child and rooster)? And was the motive of the two to convince Majid to kill himself or just to torture George?
Every answer leads to another question, leaving Caché more cryptic than ever. But there’s no way to deny the incredible meticulousness of Haneke’s direction, rendering the picture more rewarding in each additional viewing.