One of the great movies by the famous Austrian director, Michale Haneke.
I found the movie quite difficult to understand at first. The whole movie revolves around the psychological guilt of the French bourgeois – an upper class French family developing serious family and social problems. The insight that this movie affords about a typical French family’s psyche is simply priceless.
The movie flows seamlessly right through, but does not implicate the guilt or the guilty. The director is clear about where the guilt lies in French society itself – how it has shabbily and shamelessly treated immigrants over many decades (sounds like how the U.S. treated African Americans). And, how immigrants are not given any chance to integrate themselves into French society, despite their ability to speak the language rather well.
I do not claim to understand how the French society operates (apart from what I know from a couple of visits on vacation). But it is evident from movies such as these that the French are indeed a very complex people. The hero of this movie is not shown as a violent character, but rather as a complex human being who struggles with his guilt from forty years ago of having mistreated an Algerian boy who was expelled from his house and sent to an orphanage. Through this hero, the director conveys in a firm manner that the upper class does not take responsibility for its actions against the immigrants (or poorer sections of its own society), does not wish to be disturbed or distracted by these same folks, and often tries to blame these folks for their ills. It is no wonder that all these aspects have been captured so well by Mr. Haneke in this outstanding movie.
What was gratifying in this movie was the final scene (though the scene was masked by credits rolling) in which the two younger generations of the French and the immigrant family meet at the doorsteps of a school, implying that there is broader acceptance of immigrants in French society and also communicating that immigrants are catching up on their education. I may be wrong in deriving this conclusion, but that is what I think Mr Haneke is trying to portray.
Of course, his key message in this movie is the guilt of the old society towards immigrants, and its inability to deal with it one brick at a time. The director does not reveal who shot the surveillance tapes, and it is intriguing to keep eliminating the various characters, one by one. I almost thought that it is our TV Show Host’s son (who is 12 years old), because there is a scene in which blood comes out of his mouth in the washbasin and the director shows it as a fleeting shot, and that blood coming out resembles what is shown on the diagrams which accompany the video tapes.
But if this were true, what would have been the boy’s motive ? He behaves strangely towards his mother when he comes back after an overnight disappearance, and his role is not welded together well with the rest of the movie.
Overall, I liked the movie for its directorial depth and specifically for the challenging conversations that husband and wife have on the matter of “trust” between themselves, with our hero succumbing to the female onslaught which is laced with logic. See it and enjoy !
17th October 2015