Anda di halaman 1dari 15

HIDDEN AND PATENT

THE VIOLENCE OF CACH


IN THE CONTEXT OF NEONEONOIR
PEDRO CABELLO DEL MORAL
ABSTRACT:
Departing from Rick Altmans paradigm of generic identification, this article praises Michael Hanekes
Cach as one of the best examples of neoneonoir films as regards both, its content and its form. The
film deals with the theme of violence from an ontological-epistemological view, as well as from a
technical use. Throughout this text, the directors furious attempts of disturbing the spectator using the
combination of episteme and techne are to be analyzed, and this double origin/aim in the aspect of
violence is what connects the work with other neoneonoir movies. All the rest of the themes which
constitute points of contact with same genres discourses are, in the great majority, subjected to the
polyhedral theme of Violence.

Analyzing any film of the German born director Michael Haneke from the genre perspective is
not an easy duty, mainly because his authorial persona is notably distinguished on the top of
everything else. Historically, genre theory has got rid of the concept of author to put the stress
in the interaction between the mass culture industry and the films that derive from it. This
article has the challenge to integrate a film dauteur in the complex category of neoneonoir.
Regarding Cach, the text itself seems to be a complex and tentacular apparatus, unlockable in
just one division, but the only category of Hanekes works. Hence, the labeling of the movie
leads to a confusing and hybrid terminology by those who have dared to categorize the film.
On the one hand, we can take for granted that Michael Hanekes Cach is not just a genre
movie, it is a disturbing discourse that provokes the disconcert of critics, scholars and filmgoers instead. On the other hand, several studies have coincided in highlighting the suspense
qualities of Cach and it has been beheld as a thriller suspense film (Catherine Wheatley), as a
detective story (Kartik Nair), as a thriller with Hitchcockian references (Richard Porton) or
directly a psychological thriller (Anna Morris, Benjamin Ogrodnik). Moreover, there are two
articles, especially pertinent for our genre study, where Cach is attached to noir style: the text
of Monica Rajesh in Time, entitled Michael Hanekes Film Noir, and the critic of Paul Arthur
in Film Comment, that establish a comparison with classic noir pictures: the closest analogy
would be classic film noirsay, Act of Violence or In a Lonely Placemediated by the
deceptions of the Bush administration instead of the Cold War. Arthur also alleges that
Hanekes movie is typical film noir turf implanted with the fleurs du mal of contemporary
crisis (Arthur 2011: 2-3). Perhaps the most conciliatory of all the definitions, that evidences
the difficulty of classification and prefigures the concerns of the present article with regard
Cach in the context of neoneonoir is, together with Arthurs analogy, the one by Richard
Locke: a Hitchckonian family-in-distress suspense drama crossbred with a critique of the
surveillance/consumer society in the age of globalization (Locke 2007: 116).

The first step for supporting the thesis that Cach can also constitute a movie within
neoneonoir1 is to recur to Rick Altmans generic theory2, concretely to his paradigm of the
semantic-syntactic-pragmatic approach, where the author develops the post-struturalistic idea
of the usage of the readers to culminate the definition of a genre. For Altman, pragmatism
permits the consideration of a movie as part of a genre by means of the uses of all the
institutions responsible for the process of genrification. Therefore, the different uses of Cach
as a film noir or a thriller movie of the present moment, and the particular responses and
interpretations that the text arouses, justify the consideration of Hanekes film as a film noir of
the 21st Century. In the introduction of this text we have just pinpointed the filiation of Cach
with the noir category; the following article has the mission of elucidate the usage of it as a
neoneonoir production.
Cach tells the story of the irruption of the traumatic past in a bourgeois family due to the
appearance of several cassettes containing a pseudo-surveillance image of a camera aiming to
their house, a fact that generates different responses in the members of the family. In the wellknown TV host of a literature chat show, George Laurent, denial and oblivion; in Anne
Laurent, a publisher and occasionally writer, fear and guilt; and in Pierrot Laurent, the pre-teen
son of the matrimony, rebellion and escape. The videotapes connect this fragile family unit
with the past embodied by Majid, the son of the Algerian servants in Georgess family
farmhouse who were killed after a demonstration supporting the freedom of Algeria. The
successful present that Laurent family enjoys was denied to Majid thanks to Georgess acts in
the past, who falsely accused the dark skinned boy of threatening him, and managed to apart
Majid from the possibility of being adopted by his parents. The guilt of the childhood echoes
in the present surfacing again the unsolved dialectic between France and his colonial past. The
mystery of who the stalker was is unsuccessfully resolved when both Others, Majid and his
son deny their implication in the delivery of the tapes.
This simplification of the plot would show how close is the film to some of the key bricks of
classic film noir, like the theme of the past that returns, the mystery to be resolve, and the
high-class/low-class issue. The death, unavoidable topic of noir, takes place in the middle of
the story when Majid summons Georges, apparently to confess his guilt. It is at that point
when the Arab slits his own throat with a barber knife, under the attentive looking of his

Some of the characteristic of neoneonoir films are to be commented in this article but some definitions could be
intentionally vague due to the fact that the word is still a not-wide-accepted neologism. For more information. We
are going to cite throught this text the wiki in process of elaboration by the class of Film 108, Histories of
Violence: Neonoir in the 21st century.
2

Altman, in Film/Genre first attempt to find a formula of analysis ended with the syntactic-semantic approach in
1981. In the book cited he adds the pragmatic idea: In order to understand which semantic and syntactic factors
actually make meaning, it is necessary to subject them to a further analysis based on the uses to which they are
put. The process appears entirely linear, with each level determined and defined by the next that linearity is
actually no more than a convenient fiction, for even the simplest language or text may have multiple users and
branching uses (Altman 1999: 210).

visitor. This explicit slaughter is also in front of the perplex spectator and depicts a very
different image of violence distant from the previous models of film noir or neo noir.
It would be more appropriate to say that, far from satisfying the classic conventions of the noir
genre, Cach runs parallel to it, but copes with new concerns that make necessary to
considerate the film in the new stage of post 9/11 film noir3. Although the presence of an
auteur as Haneke casts more dissimilarities than similitudes with other genre products, the
output of the message, filtered through violence and uneasiness, reaches the same emotional
and moral goals that the rest of the movies and series that have ever been classified as
neoneonoir. The position of this article is not, as Roland Barthes would proclaimed, the death
of the author and the prevalence of the reader, championing the generic qualities and omitting
the authorial mechanisms. On the contrary, the purpose is to elucidate how an auteur film
could be decipher and comprehend in the same level of films or TV shows that accomplish the
characteristics of a genre, rather than the exclusivity of auteurism. Insofar as we accept this
idea, it is pertinent to analyze in deep the way Cach is also a result of its cinematic context4.

FIRST ATTEMPT: VIOLENCE AGAINST GENRE CONVENTIONS


It is patent that all the aforementioned authors have found noir traces in Cach for making
their assertions of it as another piece of the film noir chain of masterworks. But just after
defining the film as a noir or a thriller, they reject their argument as if it was at the most
uneasy place for a proper examination. So, such commentaries as: Cach departs from a
thriller to become whatever else are quite common; and therefore, in the rest of the article,
focusing on the whatever esle5. But the point is not to elude Cachs noir filiation, on the
contrary, is to investigate how the film is noir and, on the other hand reacts against the genre
where it is born.
Following Altmans applied analysis we can identify the elements that represent the noirish
tone in Hanekes work. In first place, as regard the semantic part of the schema, we can
identify the common topic of the dimly lit room which is the refuge of the protagonist. In
Cach this dark room is Georges Laurents bedroom and it represents a sort of locus of
confession. The first time we are faced to this space is when Georges proceeds to confess his
guilt. A chiaroscuro painting with the two windows as high-key light spots and the rest of the
space in the blackness of the shadows is the perfect frame for the TV presenters lies.
Hanekes mise-en-scene deliberately hides Georges out of the reach of the window light to

Wiki: Socio-Historical Context.

Wiki: Filmography.

For instance, Catherine Wheatley says: the film which, as we have noted, marks a return to the suspense genredoes not draw as heavily on the formal conventions of the genre. To put it simply, Cach does not looks like a
thriller, and it therefore avoids straightforward genre readings (Wheatley 2009: 170).

perform his confession6 in front of Anne, who nevertheless addresses to the window in order
to have more mental clarity. This bedroom is repeated as a dark place in the antepenultimate
scene of the movie, when Georges goes to bed after taking two sleeping pills, in an attempt to
wash away all that has occurred from his mind. In the latter sequence, as in the best noir
movies, the utilization of the absence of light is crucial, the complete darkness that he achieves
by closing the blinds suggests, symbolically perhaps, that much remains hidden in his mind
and conscience (Brunette 2010: 127). Functioning as an echoed parallel7, obscurity is also
present in Majid house when Georges faces his past. The same long shadows appear between
the two characters, and curiously, as a gesture to the genre, the TV presenter is wearing an
overcoat. The black shadows are also patent in the dreams/flashbacks of the main character,
and this noirish fantasmatic images8 work as a melting point for the two poles of the action:
Georges and Majid.
According to the syntactic elements that attach Cach to film noir, above all of them, the
suspense structure plays an essential role in the plot of the movie. This characteristic is the
point of departure of the director, and Haneke, himself, explained how he used the suspense to
arrive to the theme of guilt and trauma:
It basically develops like a classic thriller. Thrillers always work with fear.
You have a cell. Then a letter arrives, a cassette or even a packet with a head
in it and it all takes off from there. In the process, you learn a lot of things
about the inner world of this cell and its social infrastructure. I used this
format principally to ask one question: how do we deal with our guilty
consciences? (Kamalzadeh 2006)
It is true that the directors follows the thread of the suspense in the first part of the movie, but
what Haneke doesnt satisfy is the whodunit mystery, irritating the conscience of the curious
and tame spectator. In Cach the sucesives denials of Majid and his son about his guilt, cast
doubts on the rest of the characters, but the mastery of the auteur is not to give an explanation
and instead, to offer an ambiguous final shot, where Majids son approachs Pierrot in the
school faade and chats with him with strange familiarity, but we cant hear the conversation.
With the final scene, Haneke is doing the same as the finale of neoneonoir films, coinciding in
the open question ending, but substituting the final assertion of neoneonoir that remembers
that death is not an escape9 for the idea of solution is not an escape. In his own words: solution
doesnt change anything with respect to Georgess guilt (Toubiana 2005).
The Austrian director imagines a film about guilt. This no presence of a culprit favours the
share of the responsibility and the shift from personal guilt to social guilt. Catherine Wheatley
6

In fact, the confession is another semantic common feature in the noir genre.

Wiki: Stylistics and Topoi: Echoes and parallels.

Wiki: Stylistics and Topoi: Fantasmatic Figures.

Wiki: Themes-Motifs-Tropes: Updates to Noir: death is not an escape.

in her moral reading of the films of Haneke, comments on Cach that None of Cachs
characters express guilt fellings for their actions even though none of them are entirely
innocent and so each can be seen as objectively guilty (Wheatley 2009: 157). Each one
deals with his or her guilt in solitude, and therefore the film also presents the isolation of the
characters10, another common place in the genre. On the one hand, we watch Georges
individual investigation and his encounters with Majid as an solitary quest of answers. On the
other, when the characters are in social interaction in scenes like the dinner with guests in
Laurents house, or the swimming competion of Pierrot, they seem to be in solitude, enclosed
in a bubble of isolation that doesnt allow them to touch or to feel empathy for any other
person.
The technique of flashback as a clue of the past is often a very impotant shared syntactic
resource in film noir that serves the purpose of mounting the puzzle of the ridden plot. In the
case of Cach, these flashbacks are an access to Georgess guilt. The first time we witness an
image of the past is after the delivery of the second tape. The cassette is wrapped in a paper
with a childish drawing of a face vomiting blood. This image triggers to a past and we observe
for a few seconds a fantasmatic figure of Majid cleaning the blood of his mouth with his arm.
At this moment of the film we dont recognize this character, but as the film advances we
would realize that this image is a product of Georgess imagination. The second flashback is
longer and constitutes a whole scene where Majid beheads a rooster and a squirt of blood
springs from the un-headed-living-body of the animal. The flashback ends with the dark figure
of the child Majid approaching Georges holding the sacrificial axe in his hands. The next
sequence, back to the present, is the wakening of a sweating Georges in the bed, after having a
nightmare. This fact gives us the explanation -also for the first flashback- as a torturing mental
image of the past. The third jump to the past is different from the other two because an
objective situation is presented, without the mediation of Georges mind. Perhaps the camera is
in the real position of Georges, but we dont have any clue. The single-shot scene is the
confirmation of the guilt of the TV presenter, where Majid, doomed to be an orphan, is
forcedly taken from the farmhouse and introduced in a car against his will. This shot is
disturbing because of its gratuity; it is not necessary in terms of understanding the
consequences of Georges acts, because we know it since his confession in front on his wife.
So, the reason for its appearance is the relation between objectivity and subjectivity, reality
and unreality that lies on the film from the very beginning. This shot is necessary in the sense
of showing another dimension in the view of the past, but, of course, it adds another argument
for contradicting the spectator. Peter Brunette is aware of this rupture: The nightmaresequence is a standard film technique, but in Cach it carries an extra bit of anxious
resonance because so many of the films shots lack a clear status and source (Brunette, 2010:
120)

10

Wiki: Themes-Motifs-Tropes: Updates to Noir: Isolation

Haneke, in his previous films, has systematically eschewed the instrument of the flashback.
Therefore we can consider that the use in Cach is a necessity of accomplish the genre
suspense requirements, but also an attempt against generic conventions due to the odd nature
of the last of the flashbacks. In Cach, the jumps to the past are a point of interaction between
the personal and the socio-political memories, too. They manifest Georges guilt as well as the
hidden and silenced past of the massacre in the Algerian demonstration of 1961 by the French
forces of security. For Haneke, the transfer of the personal guilt to the social guilt through the
past is the essential theme of the film:
Its stunning that, in a country like France that prides itself on a free press
such an event could have been suppressed for forty years. I think its great that
this piece of history is finally being addressed. At the same time, I dont want
my film to be seen as specifically about a French problem. It seems to me that,
in every country, there are dark corners dark stains where questions of
collective guilt become important (Porton 2005: 50).

SECOND ATTEMPT: VIOLATION OF BOUNDARIES BETWEEN REALITY AND


UNREALITY
For the majority of viewers the most disturbing condition of the movie is the confusion
between reality and unreality. The first shot shows a Parisian street in a well-to-do
neighborhood that serves as a background for the credits. After more than two minutes, two
off-screen voices, one masculine and the other feminine alert the spectator that we are
watching a recorded video image from the position of the characters of the film. But the
transgression is stronger when the footage is advanced in fast-forward mode. The audience has
passed from the evidence of a filmic shot to a shot within a shot in a movie inside a movie.
The way the videotape is treated here shakes the viewers confidence in reality. The first
sequence you see in Cach is ostensibly reality, whereas it is actually a stole image filmed
with a camcorder (Haneke in the press conference presenting Cach at the Cannes Film
Festival 2005, cited in Sternagel 2009: 50). But this mise-en-abyme, typical of Haneke, has
another tour de force when we dont receive the clairvoyance of the counter-shot of the people
watching the videotape. Along the movie these boundaries between what is the diegesis of the
characters and what is a recording of their lives, are unclear. As witnesses of the images, we
dont know what is part of the filmic discourse within the story and what is a meta-shot. The
most aggressive point appears when we realize that this first image is impossible according to
the diegesis, and Georges evidences it when he says that if there had been a camera in that
position he would have seen it. But this dilution of reality continues as the movie advances to
reach the paroxysm in the final scene. The last shot shows a major complexity because the
perspective simulate the view of the surveillance camera again, but we are able to see inside
the field the characters that may be responsible for the stalk once the Algerian has died,
Majids son and Pierrot.

Another paradox is the use of High Definition cinema to catch the reality. For the first time in
his career, the Austrian director used HD instead of photographic film11. This fact performs a
crucial role in blurring the barriers between the image of reality and the image of a video
recording. Everything in the movie has the same materiality, the same aspect, so it is
impossible to discern what is real and what is product of the media control of the reality. To
elevate the tone of this transgression, Hanekes mise-en-scene is deliberately confusing:
championing long shots and long takes from a frontal objective position. The off-screen space
plays also an important role in this misunderstanding. Libby Saxton evidences this argument
when she comments:
In Cach, is its off-screen space which establishes on-screen space rather
than vice versa. For the contents of the frame is always already subject to the
look of another a look which cannot immediately be attributed to either
director or spectator (Saxton 2007: 7).
In this loss of reality, the media impact has a capital importance. Hanekes works have always
referenced the media as a perverse tool in comparison with the truth of the characters. As he
has said numerous times in interviews, this love-hate relationship with the media comes from
his initial projects for the Austrian television and the lack of freedom in productions that
dismished importance to the idea of authorship12. It is normal, then that in his movies there
frequently are TV screens or camera displays to manifest this lost confidence in the real
image. Haneke is concerned about this problem of the modern society, Children learn how to
perceive reality through television screens, and reality on television is shown in one of two
ways: on the one hand there are documentary shows, and on the other fiction. I think that the
media has played a significant role in this loss of any sense of reality (Haneke cited in
Wheatley 2009: 23).
The other side of this graphic unreality is the violent conditions of these images, just because
they ontologically represent a mediatized window to the real world: what we know of the
world is little more that the mediated world, the image. We have no reality, but a derivative of
reality, which is extremely dangerous, most certainly from a political standpoint but also in a
larger sense to our ability to have a palpable sense of the truth of everyday experience
(Sharrett 2003: 30). In Cach, the scene that better exemplifies this is when Anne is trying to
shake Georgess conscience after the disappearance of Pierrot. The long take that Haneke
offers is an image of the living room with the TV receiver as the protagonist of the scene in the
center of the frame. In each side of the unreal central space, each member of the couple is
isolated, not sharing the same space, due to the fact that Anne is most of the time making calls

11

Michael Haneke had used video footage in other films like The Seven Continent, Bennys Video or Code
Unknown, but this is the first time that this kind of images arent specifically dissimilar to the rest of the shots.
12
For example, in Richard Portons interview, Haneke jokes about the fact that his criticism of the media derives
from the idea that he knows it so well (Porton 2005: 51).

to locate her son. On the TV, the news of a violent and rough world13 contrast with the
conversation where Georges receives passively Annes worries, remarking the alienation of
the characters that live in such a wild world14. As Adam Lowestein would say, the geopolitical
violence has invaded the home15. With this cinematic moment the author is enlarging the
international aim and taking the story beyond the boundaries of the France postcolonial
problem. In a globalized world, as Lowestein argues, the violence is also globalized. For this
reason, some authors have considered Hanekes discourse as part of the Post 9/11 aftermaths16.
Taking this argument into account, it would constitute a direct link between Cach and other
discourses in neoneonoir genre, where the violence has normally an international scope.
Nonetheless, the Austrian director could also be seen as a precedent of this idea of the
geopolitic violence invading our homes:
I was amazed when everybody started saying that the world was different after
September 11. People with views like this must be incredibly naive. To my
eyes, the world looked remarkably similar before. It's the same with the riots.
What this is really about is the primal legacy of colonialism and the nations
involved labouring with the consequences. And there is no one solution to
this(Kamalzadeh 2006).
According to this, the colonial past of France has an echo within the movie in Georgess guilt
and his personal connection with the incidents of 1961; and also in the socio-political context
where it was released. The massacre of Algerian FLN supporters was an unresolved problem,
continuously silenced after more than forty years. This issue became again up-to-date when
Cach and other texts and films pinpointed its hidden presence in French society. As a result
of this socio-political context, several riots started in some Parisian banlieues by November
2005. Once again, the media have an implication in the image of the Other, either for oculting
or for signalizing his presence, and Cach also critizices the media construction of racial
identity. Benjamin Ogrodnik goes further by saying that in the film it has been a shifting from
the use of media as concealing a reality to the use as a mechanism of protest, the cameras lens
is manipulated beyond this purpose, turned into a weapon of resistance for the formerly
colonized, mobilizing objectification agaisnt those who would objectify them and undermine
their agency (Ogrodnik2009 :58).

13

The news reports the Iraqi War, violence in Palestine, the election of the first Sikh prime minister in India, and
finally an appearance of the vice-president Dick Cheney.
14

Haneke comments in the interview with Sharrett that he is most concerned with television as the key symbol
primarily of the media representation of violence, and more generally of a greater crisis () Alienation is a very
complex problem, but television is certainly implicated in it (Sharrett 2003: 30).
15

Adam Lowestein talks about this geopolitical scope of the violence in his article title Geopolitics in Eastern
Promises. He argues that in the globalized world, the horror has been installed in Americans home, and United
States can somehow revive its shaken confidence at home by lashing out abroad after 9/11.
16

One could not omit the fact that the suicide of Majid could be seen as an echo of a terrorist and desperate action
of an oppressed Arab against the object of his oppression.

The result of this national/international violence in the film is the trauma. The traumatic
experience is an inheritance of the personal/political past, using the neoneonoir terminology17.
The trauma irrupts in Laurent family and the characters are confronted with their realities:
Georges, with his child selfishness; Anne, with his infidelity to the family unit; and Pierrot
with his self-awareness of the imperfection of his home. But at the end their guilt remains and
could not be expiated. This trauma enters through the childish drawings rather than through
the surveillance images. In fact, are the bloody, but innocent drawings, which trigger the
fantasmatic figures of the past18.
Georges is punished in the film not for his childhood lies that denied Majid a home and a
family, but for his constant negation of responsibility for this act. In this sense the message of
the movie, exemplified in Georgess persona, is against the disavowal of the social
responsibility for the acts of ones country.

THIRD ATTEMPT: VIOLENCE THROUGH FORM AND STYLE


Perhaps the most violent rupture in Hanekes film, the one that disconcert most of the
spectators, is the mise-en-scene. The Austrian author goes further this time and twists his quiet
camera style that allows long takes and out of the field. In Cach, the key stone is the
ambiguity of the camera position. After the manifest that constitutes the first shot of the
movie, each subsequent image is an undefined POV. The viewer doesnt have the certainty of
what he or she is seeing; it could come from Hanekes authorial camera or from a hidden
surveillance camera mediated also through Hanekes persona. This fact converts the spectators
in witnesses, haunted in the very same way that is haunted Georges with the echo of his past in
the present. The majority of the shots show the entire space form a wide perspective as if the
presence of a camera/spectator was observing each scene form a corner of the room or the
street. Haneke deliberately repeats the same camera position to blur the differences between
the shots that come from the filmic camera and the shots from the stalker camera. For instance,
the second time that we see the faade of the house in daylight; the frame is almost the same of
the first shot of the film, which we know that has a surveillance origin. The only variation is
that the angle is not completely a frontal view, but it could come again from the same hidden
camera that could have panned lightly. Another disconcerting scene is the one that places us
for first time in front of the school. This shot is deliberately frontal and static and last for
almost two minutes. Apparently it is taken from a hidden camera, but just after Georges and
Pierrot are approaching the edge, the camera starts a tracking to reframe them. This image
wouldnt be so provoking if it was unique in the film, but, it acquires its full signification

17
18

Wiki: Themes-Motifs-Tropes: Defining the self: Always Personal.

Guy Austin argues that the tapes are empty of content. Their message within the diegesis is simple: someone
is watching you. The drawings have an entirely different function. They visualize the trauma that Georges has
denied for his entire adult life (Austin 2007:533).

when the shot is repeated in the final picture of the movie, this time as a still image without
any camera movement. This diegetic/non diegetic point of view is an abysm for the viewer,
Anna Morris catches perfectly the interrogations that arouses the reality at stake: If any shot
last for too long without cutting, or remains static and unmoving, or refuses to give a close-up
of a face, we grow suspect about the origin of the image; when will this shot begin to rewind
itself (Morris, 2013). We could conclude by saying that it is an ontological violence, rather
than graphical violence, as Mattias Fray says in his article of 2006, because the image itself,
for its uncertain content and its impossible position in the diegesis, is what dangerously
disturbs the viewer.
This act of transforming the spectator in witness of violence is a double attempt, first of all as
an epistemic authorial code -using a Foucaults term- with the connotation of the long take in
Hanekes field of reference and with the new significance in Cach; but also a technic device
due to the fact that the viewer is concern that this shot comes from the physical lens of a
real/fictional camera. This combination of episteme and techne is a complete violation of the
comfortable position of the spectator, who is confronted with the uncanny and the unreal. In
this particular sense, the directors aim is achieving the same sensation in the audience that
most of the neoneonoir productions that use a prominence of graphic screen violence19. The
long take is normally uncommon in neoneonoir, whereas the repulsion of the image is a
common concern. The spectators response is in both cases a morbid desire of continuing
watching the images and at the same time, moving away the view from the explicit violence.
Haneke knows how to exploit audiences expectations:
Spectators are used to the programming of television and the entertainment
cinema, which present a world that is explainable and whose contradictions
can be resolved. To have their craving for pacification gratified, they are
willing to pay a great deal of money to the imperialism of illusion. By telling
the story in a manner that refuses to be part of this kind of collusion, a film can
be irritating and also productive (Haneke cited in Wheatley 2009: 46).

Hanekes distance and frontal view is a more intellectual response to this matter20. He is taking
the same position of Jacques-Louis David when he presents the assassination of Jean-Paul
Marat in his bathtub. The viewer is a witness of the posterior moments of a horror scene, but
everything is chilling quiet. In Hanekes movies, we dont find violence as the product of an
animal instinct, it is derived from human rationality and affects in a very human manner. In
this vision, the author coincides with the argument of Hannah Arendt where she says that
neither violence nor power is a natural phenomenon, that is, a manifestation of the life

19
20

Wiki: stylistics and Topoi: Prominence of Graphic Screen Violence.

In Kamalzadehs interview, Haneke confirms this point: What I'm really trying to do is point out to the viewer
that he is only being confronted by anartifact. I challenge him to think for himself like in "Funny Games",
where he is targeted directly. This is a basic condition for me, so that I can deal with the viewer seriously. I want
to let him see through the things he sees (Kamalzadeh 2006).

process; they belong to the political realm of human affairs whose essential human quality is
guaranteed by mans faculty of action (Arendt, 1969: 82). Thats why Haneke depicts the
scene of Majids suicide as it is in the move. First, a tense conversation between the two
characters where the Arab says that he wants Georges to be present, then, the quick and
unexpected slit, and after an endlessness minute of uneasy calm where we accompany
Georgess disconcerting paces to and fro. The entire scene is shown in a single shot form the
same position of the hidden camera that recorded the first encounter of Georges and Majid and
whose footage was sent to Anne and to Georgess boss. It is not exaggerated to say that the
scene is experienced as more violent as the explicit close-up of a massacre in any other film.
Libby Saxton quotes Haneke on this matter: I try to give back to violence that which truly is:
pain, injury to another (Saxton 2008: 89).
The directors use of the long take in scenes of violence is a meditated issue that addresses the
media alienation of the masses again. Perhaps I can connect this issue of television () The
faster something is shown, the less able you are to perceive it as an object occupying a space
in physical reality () there is at least less of a sense of time being manipulated when one
tries to stay close to a real time framework. The reduction of the montage to a minimum also
tends to shift responsibility back to the viewer in that more contemplation is required (Haneke
cited in Sharrett 2003: 31)
But how the scene is so powerful in the film if it is so unexpected? The tension comes from
the fact that the violence is overflying the movie from the beginning to the end. We not only
have an uneasy sentiment in each confusing frame, to be more precise, we assist to several
prefiguration of explicit violence. The scene of the suicide is becoming more proximate each
time we see the drawing of a blooding head, or the fantasmatic figure of Majid sputtering
blood in the flashbacks.
This act of taking ones life functions as a violent climax where Georges is brutally confronted
with his Other. As Piotr Hoffman maintains in his essay about the concept of violence in
philosophy, is the other and he alone- who stands out as the source of a series of events
moving toward my destruction (Hoffman 1989: 27). This is a true fear in Georges, besides the
consequences of Majids acts, he is afraid of the presence of the Other. By all means, the
audacity of the film is to shift the use of the violence from one pole to his opposite, from the
historical victim to the inflictor, and from the electronically armed society to the person who
embodies the reason of his fears. Georges, the privileged white subject, is made the object
rather than the master of surveillance technology, he becomes stigmatized by the very
technology designed to protect affluent people like him form criminal and racial otherness
(Osterweil 2006: 38).

Anyhow, the scene of Majids suicide has no precedent in Hanekes filmography, where it is
more common to be in front of the aftermaths of the violence, rather than watch it directly21.
This necessity of showing a moment like this is motivated by the type of story the director is
telling, where Georgess guilt has to be experienced in a traumatic way. The past trauma
passes from Georges to the viewer, and both can avoid it or be redeemed. In fact, Georgess
reaction after visual trauma is the act of going to see a movie in a theatre, submerging in the
shadows of the unreal world and becoming himself a spectator. Moreover, the last time we see
the TV presenter is when he takes two sleeping pills (cachet in French) to blur and hide his
mind in a deep sleep. Of course, the viewer knows, as Georges, that concealing the guilt
behind the sheets is impossible. As in much of the neoneonoir films to which this movie could
be compared, the redemption couldnt be achieved through the death of the protagonist, and
the character is doomed to live with his own guilt22.
Finally, what we could conclude is that the German-Austrian director Michael Haneke has
made the movie of an auteur, being absolutely conscious of his own referential field. By
contrast, we can also say that Cach is mirroring another neoneonoir genre films that have the
same noirish atmosphere and contain the same common places in stylistics. Above everything,
Cach is achieving the same moral response in the spectator than other neoneonoir
productions through the use of violence. As a pragmatic conclusion, coming back to Rick
Altman, we can assure that Hanekes movie is within the orbit of neoneonoir. It shares the two
main interest of this group of films: the geopolitical milieu, which is one of the principal
innovations of the genre, tangential to most of the other themes; and also the new form of the
violence, more explicit and unredeemable. Once again we are in the crossroad between genre
and author theory, but, perhaps, to better understand this paradox, we can recur to an idea of
the French author Nol Simsolo, aroused in his book Le Film Noir when he says that a film
noir can be identify by a certain thematic, recurrent characters, the ideological body of the
discourse, or the iconographic fashions. Their identity lies in the election of an artist attitude;
that is in the way of observing and showing the topic to be filmed. Following Simsolos
argument, it just rests to say that the most detectable quality of a film noir movie is that it is a
piece of art coming from an artistic attitude. That could be the best quality of Hanekes Cach.

21

On the other hand, brutality against animals is a recurrent motif in Hanekess films: the pig in Bennys Video
or the horse in Code Unknown In Cach, this violence can be seen through the flashback where Majids
beheads a cockerel.
22

Wiki: Themes-Motifs-Tropes: death is not an escape.

CITED WORKS
- ALTMAN, Rick: Film/Genre. London : BFI Publishing, 1999
-

ARENDT, Hannah: On Violence. New York: Hancourt, Brace &World, 1969

ARTHUR, Paul: "Endgame: Michael Hanekes Cach". Film Comment 31 May, 2011

AUSTIN, Guy: "Drawing trauma: visual testimony in Cach and J'ai 8 ans". Screen,
Winter, 2007, vol. 48 Issue 4, pp. 529-536

BRUNETTE, Peter: Contemporary Film Directors: Michael Haneke. Chicago:


University of Illinois Press, 2010

FREY, Mattias: "Dossier on Michael Haneke: "Benny's Video," "Cach," and the
Desubstantiated Image". Framework, Fall 2006, vol. 47, no. 2

GROSSVOGEL, D. I: "Haneke: The Coercing of Vision." Film Quarterly, Jun 2007,


vol. 60, No. 4, pp. 36-43

HOFFMAN, Piotr: Violence in Modern Philosophy. Chicago / London: The University


of Chicago Press, 1989

KAMALZADEH, Dominik: "Cowardly and Comfortable". Die Tageszeitung, January


26, 2006 translated in Singandsight.com, Jan 30, 2006

LOCKE, Richard: "Globalization and Its Discontents: the directors of "Babel" and
"Cach" tell complex stories of families caught in ever-expanding worlds". American
Scholar, Spring 2007, vol. 76 Issue 2, pp. 114-117

LOWENSTEIN, Adam: "Promises of Violence; David Cronenberg on Globalized


Geopolitics". Boundary 2: An international journal of literature and culture, 2009, vol.
36, no. 2. Durham: Duke University press, pp. 199-208

MORRIS, Anna: "Hidden Within Ourselves: A Psychoanalytic Examination of the


Effects of Repression in Michael Hanekes Cach". Bright and Lights Film Journal,
Feb 2013, Issue 79

NAIR, Kartik: "Cach and the Secret Image." Wide Screen, 2009, vol. 1, Issue 1, pp. 15

OGRODNIK, Benjamin: "Deep Cuts." Film International, 2009, vol. 7, Issue 1, pp.
56-59

OSTERWEIL, Ara: "Film review: Cach " Film Quarterly, Summer 2006, vol. 59, no.
4, pp. 35-39

PORTON, Richard: "Collective Guilt and Individual Responsibility: An Interview with


Michael Haneke." Cineaste: America's Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of
the Cinema, Winter 2005,vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 50-51

RAJESH, Monica: "Michael Hanekes Film Noir". Time (on line), 30 Nov. 2009

SAXTON, Libby (2005): "Secrets and revelations: Off-screen space in Michael


Haneke's Cach". Studies in French Cinema, 2007, vol. 7 Issue 1, pp. 5-17

SAXTON, Libby: "Close encounters with distant suffering: Michael Hanekes


disarming visions" in INCE, Kate (Ed.): Five Directors: Auteurism from Assayas to
Ozon. Manchester / New York: Manchester University Press, 2008. pp. 84-111

SHARRETT, Christopher: "Michael Haneke and the Discontents of European


Culture." Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, Fall 2006, vol. 47, no. 2, pp.
6-16

SHARRETT, Christopher. Heinrichs, Jurgen (translator): "The World That Is Known:


An Interview with Michael Haneke." In Cineaste: America's Leading Magazine on the
Art and Politics of the Cinema, Summer 2003, vol. 28, no.3 , pp. 28-31

SIMSOLO, Nol: Le Film Noir. Paris: Les Cahiers du Cinma, 2005

STERNAGEL, Joerg: "From Inside Us: Experiencing the Film Actor in Michael
Haneke's Cach." Film International, June 2009, vol. 7, no. 3 [39], pp. 50-61

TOUBIANA, Serge: "Interview". In Cach DVD box, Les films du Losange, 2005

WHEATLEY, Catherine: Michael Hanekes cinema: The Ethic of the Image. New
York / Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009

COMPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY
-

BADT, Karin: "Family Is Hell and So Is the World: Talking to Michael Haneke at
Cannes 2005." Bright Lights Film Journal, Nov 2005, vol. 50

COULTHARD, Lisa: "Negative ethics: The missed event in the French films of
Michael Haneke." Studies in French Cinema, 2011, vol. 11, Issue 1, pp. 71-82

FREY, Mattias (2003): "Michael Haneke: A cinema of disturbance: the films of


Michael Haneke in context". Senses of Cinema. Dec. 2010, Issue 57

GROSSVOGEL, D. I: "Haneke: The Coercing of Vision." Film Quarterly, Jun 2007,


vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 36-43

HANEKE, Michael: "The Making of Cach". In Cach DVD box, Artificial Eye, 2006

MECCHIA, Giuseppina: "The Children Are Still Watching Us, Cach/Hidden in the
folds of time." Studies in French Cinema, 2007, vol. 7 Issue 2, pp. 131-141

RITZENHOFF, Karen: "Visual competence and reading the recorded past: the
paradigm shift from analogue to digital video in Michael Haneke's film Cach." Visual
Studies, Sep 2008, vol. 23 Issue 2, pp. 136-146

SORFA, David: "Uneasy domesticity in the films of Michael Haneke." Studies in


European Cinema, 2006, vol. 3 Issue 2, pp. 93-104

THOMAS, Jonathan: " Michael Haneke's New(s) Images." Art Journal, Fall 2008, vol.
67 Issue 3, pp. 80-85

WYNTER, Kevin: "Excesses of Millennial Capitalism, Excesses of Violence: Several


Critical Fragments Regarding the Cinema of Michael Haneke." Cine Action, Nov 2006,
vol. 70, pp. 39-45

Minat Terkait