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Ipek A. Celik
Cinema Journal, 50, Number 1, Fall 2010, pp. 59-80 (Article)
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”I Wanted You to Be Present”: Guilt and the History of Violence in Michael Haneke’s Caché
by IPEK A. CELIK
Abstract: The essay examines how Michael Haneke’s Caché (2005) addresses contemporary racism in France. After discussing the ﬁlm’s historical background and reviewing Anglo-American and French criticism, the article explores the connection between the ﬁlm’s “terrible realism” and the implications of colonial violence and guilt in today’s France.
On the unconscious plane, colonialism . . . did not seek to be considered by the native as a gentle, loving mother who protects her child from a hostile environment, but rather as a mother who unceasingly restrains her fundamentally perverse offspring from managing to commit suicide and from giving free rein to its evil instincts. The colonial mother protects her child from itself, from its ego, from its physiology, its biology, and its own unhappiness which is its very essence. —Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth1
© 2010 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713
ichael Haneke explains that his French-produced Caché (2005) is “a tale of morality dealing with how one lives with guilt. Do I accept it? And if I don’t what do I do? And if I do, what do I do?”2 He evokes issues of colonial guilt and responsibility by revealing “hidden” territories of individual and collective memory in France. Caché is advertised on a poster that shows a plain white surface slashed with a stain of blood which represents the climactic scene of a suicide. The French protagonist (Georges) has accused his Algerian childhood acquaintance (Majid) of “terrorizing” his family with surveillance videos of their private lives. Majid invites Georges to his house, where he calmly denies this charge saying, “I called you because I wanted you to be present.” He takes out a razor and slits his own throat in a split second. The camera shooting from behind Georges
1 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Les damnés de le terre, 1961), trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1963), 211. 2 Michael Haneke, interview with Serge Toubiana, Caché DVD (Sony, 2006).
Ipek A. Celik is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature at Brown University. Her research explores theories of violence and the representation of minorities in contemporary European ﬁlm and literature.
No. 1 | Fall 2010
The long static shot emphasizes the unsettling nature of the suicide (Figure 1). The content of the surveillance videotapes in relation to both the protagonist and the spectator become as important as their source. with the suicide scene. When the razor turns the alleged criminal into a victim. in the end. 18. which leads to the carting off of Majid to an orphanage. The ﬁlm’s shift of focus. since the roots of the injustice Majid suffers run as deeply as the October 1961 massacre of Algerian demonstrators in Paris. The director forces shows a plain white surface slashed with a stain both Georges and the audience to confront of blood which represents the climactic scene of a suicide (Les Films du Losange. A static and fast-paced. to the historical context that extends out Figure 1. Haneke admits that the suicide scene is fundamental for sustaining the reality effect of his ﬁlm: “This is the most important shot of the ﬁlm: if the suicide scene is not plausible then the entire ﬁlm is spoiled. does not even resolve the original mystery. . Moreover. 2005). Haneke establishes links between the personal and the collective conscience. 1 | Fall 2010 situates the spectator and the protagonist side by side while they watch the shocking act. His denial of responsibility for Majid’s current destitution and refusal to communicate with Majid has perpetrated more violence. were victims of the October 1961 massacre in Paris—a massacre that took place at the height of the French colonial era and was silenced for three decades. Libération. away from the resolution of the mystery accomplishes both a temporal and spatial extension of guilt and responsibility. Georges tells lies about the orphaned Majid to dissuade his parents from adopting the Algerian boy. interview with Antoine de Baecque. . who were farmhands for Georges’s family. At the time. the immediacy of the question of who is sending the tapes is replaced by the question of who is being observed and what the videotapes reveal. October 5. the protagonist’s denial and the French state’s refusal to admit to the perpetration of colonial violence. been repressed in the French collective unconscious.Cinema Journal 50 | No. 2005. their repressed memory and its consequences. until recently. the private and the public forgetting. Caché is advertised on a poster that to the French spectator. . Majid’s parents. 60 . My translation and emphasis. leading eventually to the suicide. Majid’s suicide protracts the ﬁlm’s temporal referentiality: Georges’s repressed childhood guilt is forcefully carried to the present day. the director. The manner in which this suicide is performed and shot aims to violate both the protagonist’s and the spectator’s vision with an explosive accusation. the act of suicide stretches the spatial referentiality of Caché from the diegesis that captures the protagonist. terribly realist shot. By this time (more than an hour into the ﬁlm) the spectator anxiously anticipates evidence of Majid’s responsibility for sending the videotapes.”3 The bloody and disturbing physical violence made central to the ﬁlm—as the ﬁlm poster implies and the director admits—symbolizes the history of violence that has. 3 Haneke.
as if to say: your indifference or willful blindness to certain forms of violence and forgetting makes you an accomplice. 5 Kristin Ross.” “he has to accept that the country to which he comes is an old country that started to exist long before him. By providing explosive images of violence as the contemporary repercussions of repressed images. forms the basis of the neoracist consensus today: the logic of segregation and expulsion that governs questions of immigration.sarkozy.fr (accessed February 25.”5 4 “Discours de Nicolas Sarkozy Toulon. . But how effective is the manner in which Haneke asserts the guilt of viewers? Does Caché ’s discussion of guilt regarding colonial history and forgetting involve the question of responsibility? What complications arise when French guilt toward Algerians is evoked through the allegory of a decadent bourgeois family? And does memorializing violence involve the risk of a self-centered ﬂagellation? Historical Revisionism and Caché’s Timeliness.”4 Sarkozy’s speech evokes an ancient and “authentic” French past and identity that exist separately from France’s colonial heritage and its contemporary vestiges. 1995).” http://www. . “By what right do you ask the sons to repent for faults that often weren’t committed by their fathers other than in the imagination of those who profess repentance!” Sarkozy’s denial of colonial crimes repositions “the Algerian.Cinema Journal 50 | No. Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (Cambridge. 196. MA: MIT Press. 1 | Fall 2010 This article investigates both the potential and the limits of Michael Haneke’s “terrible realism” in the treatment of the rupture between France’s colonial past and its postcolonial present. To understand contemporary racist slogans such as “France must not become Africa. . its insistence on separating itself off from what it views as an extraneous period irrelevant to its true national heritage. Fast Cars. Implicitly addressing the ex-colonial migrants. Sarkozy raised concerns among the public for his blunt disavowal of the crimes against humanity committed during the colonial period. Sarkozy’s much-debated 2007 campaign speech in Toulon is a recent example of the revisionist discourse that uses memory politics to dislocate the roots of contemporary social tensions and neo-racism in France. The ﬁlm reaches out beyond itself to grab the cool-headed spectator. in order to become “French. An escalating trend of historical revisionism in France—a discourse that has moved from the far right of JeanMarie Le Pen’s Front National to the center right of Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP)—makes Caché a timely commentary on the issue of colonial guilt. 61 . 2007). appropriating the narrative tools of objectivity (news images and surveillance videos) in order to scrutinize the ethics and politics of media realism and to point to the incomplete nature of our vision. Caché ’s realism thus engages with the absence of colonial history. and attitudes toward immigrants in France. Then presidential candidate and now president. Moroccan or Tunisian” outside the French national body and suggests that. the ﬁlm ponders the politics of memory and forgetting. he asked. My translation. Kristin Ross succinctly explains the conception of “history as rupture”—an ideological source from which Sarkozy derives his brazen rejection of “repentance”—as it has shaped French ofﬁcial discourse on the colonial era: France’s denial of the ways in which it was and is formed by colonialism.” we must return to the era of “Algeria is France.
Daniel Lefeuvre. The UMP victory in the 2007 presidential elections proves the appeal of this discourse for the majority of voters. and the declaration of Slavery Memorial Day as an annual 6 “Discours de Nicolas Sarkozy Toulon. and denying the French colonial past are conditioned by continuing legacies and interests concerning the ex-colonial population of North African minorities.admi. UMP had proposed a controversial law regarding colonial repatriates to recognize their “sufferings and sacriﬁces.net/jo/20050224/DEFX0300218L. and Crowley. 8 John Lichﬁeld. I want to say that the time has come to look toward the future. 1961. La tyrannie de la pénitence (Paris: Grasset. the ﬁrst ofﬁcial visit to Algeria.html (accessed April 15.” 7 The proposed law can be seen at http://www. ed. 2006). 2006). May 17. 267–280. Patrick Crowley mentions several recent publications that argue against apology for France’s colonial past: Pascale Bruckner. when French Muslims (the largest Muslim population in Europe) became “a security concern” as well as an “immigration concern. 2007). Through an ironic repositioning of perpetrators and victims. “Self-doubt and self-ﬂagellation is out. 62 . It is no coincidence that UMP’s revisionism follows September 11. MI: Wayne State University Press.” Another signiﬁcance of the Toulon speech is that it marks a shift from the memory politics pursued by Sarkozy’s mentor and predecessor Jacques Chirac. As an Independent correspondent infers. 9 Elazar Barkan. Sarkozy blames the minorities’ obsession with the past for their exclusion from French society and their unsuccessful assimilation. especially in North Africa. “When Forgetting Is Remembering: Haneke’s Caché and the Events of October 17. Denial of guilt quickly lends itself to transference of responsibility to present-day migrants. Sarkozy holds France’s ex-colonial population of migrants themselves accountable for the contemporary social tensions in France: “To all the people of the Mediterranean who spend their time dwelling on the past and the ageold hatreds. forgetting.”7 Later that year. during which Chirac used the erstwhile controversial term “the Algerian War” (2003). 2007. Sarkozy’s speech in Toulon is in line with his party’s revisionist turn.9 Acts such as the admission of the French state’s injustices to Jews during the Second World War (1995). 2000).”6 In a reversed logic. the party’s support of harsh measures to suppress riots in the suburbs of Paris and their passing of a strict immigration law following the riots demonstrates how remembering. In February 2005.” Independent. Also. Brian Price and John David Rhodes (Detroit.” in On Michael Haneke. which goes hand in hand with its recently revived anti-immigration/anti-Muslim politics. Holocaust victims. 2010). “Patriotism and Pride Comes First as Sarkozy Takes Power. recognizing.Cinema Journal 50 | No. and indigenous and colonial populations were a globally widespread phenomenon deﬁning a new internationalism.”8 The Chirac era corresponded to the aftermath of the cold war when reparations and apologies for historical injustices against former slaves. The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices (New York: Norton. National pride is in. with Sarkozy’s election.” providing them and Harkis (Algerians who served in the French Army during the Algerian War) a monthly allowance and enforcing school curricula to “particularly acknowledge the positive role of the French presence overseas. 1 | Fall 2010 Compartmentalization of colonial history as an “extraneous period” and its derivative historical revisionism effectively suppress continuities of colonial mentality and structures in today’s multicultural France. Pour en ﬁnir avec la repentence coloniale (Paris: Flammarion.
11 Geoffrey De Laforcade. no.”15 silenced periods such as the Vichy regime. mode d’emploi (Paris: La Fabrique. an “identity crisis affecting ﬁn-de-siècle France.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 47. 1961. Chirac “angrily dismissed” Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s call for reparations in 2003. “Memory Studies. 6 (2006): 229. 1997).11 Thus. 63 . a generation of historians endeavored to unearth “lieux d’oubli” of French history14—“sites that public memory has expressly avoided because of the disturbing effect that their invocation is still capable of arousing. Les formes de l’oubli (Paris: Payot. even in the face of stark anti-immigration laws and militant government responses to student and minority social unrest. 13 Charles Forsdick. Les femmes. Aristide was forced to leave Haiti soon thereafter. and then a French-AmericanCanadian coalition invaded the country. 14 Benjamin Stora.” French Cultural Studies 12. Along similar lines. not the present. In the majority of the most acknowledged theoretical works on memory (by Pierre Nora and Paul Ricœur. Travail de mémoire 1914–1998: Une nécessité dans un siècle de violence (Paris: Autrement. ou. l’histoire. critique et responsabilité (Paris: Complexe. and Jean-Luc Einaudi. 12 Karen E. 1 | Fall 2010 holiday of commemoration (2006) marked Chirac’s contribution to the 1990s global trend of promoting morality with regard to historical injustices. memory. Les abus de la mémoire (Paris: Arléa. 1999). Jean-Pierre Bacot and Christian Coq. Enzo Traverso. 1999). the Algerian War. and recognition of guilt. “‘Foreigners. My emphasis. 2000). 1998).” De Laforcade suggests. Le passé. no. La gangrène et l’oubli: La mémoire de la guerre d’Algérie (Paris: La Découverte. le histoire.”13 Beginning in the late 1980s. they both reﬂected and incited a wave of critical investigations of French history.Cinema Journal 50 | No. colonialism is relatively absent compared to abundant discussions of the 10 Declared an annual holiday in 2006. eds. 3 (2001): 335–350. 1991) are alternative historiographies that raise concerns about individual and national responsibility for the atrocities committed in the past. (Paris: Seuil. the colonial period. Till underscores the neoliberal economic background that sets the commemoration of past injustices into motion: “[Slavery Remembrance Day] positions France as a moral leader in a global order with ‘good’ nations acknowledging past actions. no. Vectors of Memory: Legacies of Trauma in Postwar Europe (New York: Berg. Henri Rousso. and the October 17. 10.. by declaring slavery “a crime against humanity. 1998). Marc Augé. and Tzvetan Todorov.” History Workshop Journal 62. De Laforcade also notes that Slavery Memorial Day.”12 As ambiguous in their motives as Chirac’s memory politics and the international currency of governmental apologias in the 1990s were. 2005)..’ Nationalism and the ‘Colonial Fracture’: Stigmatized Subjects of Historical Memory in France. Le syndrome de Vichy: 1944–198. Sociologist Geoffrey de Laforcade observes that while he promoted the commemoration of the abolition of slavery. La mémoire. historian Karen E. 1987).10 Memory studies scholars. Till. As tied to a neo-liberal agenda. See also Les lieux de mémoire under the direction of Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard. 2003). however. acknowledging past crimes against humanity locates that legacy in the past. legislators intend to divert minority public opinion from measures against contemporary issues of discrimination. Michelle Perrot. “‘Direction les oubliettes de l’histoire’: Witnessing the Past in the Contemporary French Polar. May 10 was chosen as Slavery Memorial Day in order to commemorate the 2001 passage of a French law declaring slavery a crime against humanity. have been suspicious of the sincerity of French reconciliatory gestures. since the commemorations focus on “enlightened values [and the] generosity of French liberals in 1830” rather than anticolonial revolts and resistance movements in the Antilles. Paul Ricœur. 1 (2006): 339. 15 Nancy Wood.. Furthermore. massacres of Paris. La bataille de Paris: 17 octobre 1961 (Paris: Seuil. ironically. 1998). for instance). has become an opportunity for self-praise rather than selfcriticism. l’oubli (Paris: Seuil.
Paul Touvier (1994). Denis Lévy’s Mémoires en blanc (1981). social scientists. Agnès Denis and Mehdi Lallaoui’s Le silence de ﬂeuve (1992). Jean-Pierre Chèvenement. Okacha Touita’s Les sacriﬁés (1982). colonial crimes have also become a part of the public debate. and Jean-Luc Einaudi’s La bataille de Paris and Octobre 1961. as Papon’s lawyer claimed. the minister of interior. Virginie Delahautemaison’s 17 Octobre 1961: Retour de memoire (2001).” Papon’s involvement with torture and human rights violations during his service in Algeria and during his prefecture in Paris. Papon was only convicted for his crimes during the Second World War against the Jews of Bordeaux. two hundred missing persons. Philip Brooks and Alan Hayling’s Drowning by Bullets (1992). at the time. Aude Touly’s La guerre sans nom dans Paris (2001). As a result of Einaudi’s testimony. 18 A collection of testimonies and analysis of the event by scholars in Le 17 Octobre 1961: Un crime d’état à Paris (Paris: La Dispute. and Maurice Papon (1998) for their crimes against humanity during the Vichy regime. shortly after Papon’s trial. The resulting Mandelkern report. the massacre came to public attention during Maurice Papon’s trial (October 1997 to April 1998) for human rights violations during the Second World War. of whom two thousand were deported to the Beni Messous prison camp in Algeria. 2001). Caché is one of the few French ﬁlms to recall the October 1961 massacres in Paris. l’histoire. A brief account of the 1961 Parisian massacre and the symbolic nature of this event in displaying the continuity of colonial structures in French administrative mechanisms will help provide an understanding of why Haneke chose this incident as integral to Caché ’s ethical project.19 the perpetrators of the 1961 massacre have 16 Abdelmajid Hannoum. for example. published in May 1998. and Alain Tasma’s Nuit noire (2005) shot for French channel TV5. the Front de Libération Nationale’s peaceful demonstration opposing the emergency laws and curfews against North Africans in Paris resulted in two hundred deaths. In 1961. The trials were followed by the publication of General Paul Aussaresses’s account of state-backed torture in Algeria in 2001. l’oubli.” 64 . Services spéciaux. For further discussion on Octobre à Paris and Drowning by Bullets.17 Mandelkern’s 1998 investigation of the October 1961 massacre. “When Forgetting Is Remembering. Bourlem Gourdjou’s Vivre au paradis (1999). see Crowley. Un massacre à Paris (Paris: Fayard. which was immediately censored.” Theory. Daniel Kupferstein’s 17 Octobre 1961: Dissimulation de massacre (2001). and this interest has been shared by a number of historians.16 Yet. and twelve thousand arrests. formed a commission to investigate the October 1961 events. Algérie 1955–1957: Mon témoignage sur la torture (Paris: Perrin.Cinema Journal 50 | No. and ﬁlmmakers. 2001). 1 | Fall 2010 Vichy regime. “Review: Paul Ricœur’s Mémoire. was misrepresented and concealed by the media: the ofﬁcial number of deaths reported was three. See. the event was addressed in ﬁlms and documentaries beginning only in the 1980s. concluded that thirty-two Algerians died during the event but refrained from publicly denouncing perpetrators. Decades later. writers. Ali Akika’s Les enfants d’Octobre (2000). 19 With the exception of Maurice Panijel’s 1962 documentary Octobre à Paris. 2001). “the case within the case. 17 Paul Aussaresses.” History and the Present.18 The event. along with the trials of Klaus Barbie (1987). While there has been increased public interest in considering how the event has been misremembered. Culture and Society 22 (2005): 135. and the ofﬁcial acceptance of the Algerian War in 1999—which until then had been euphemistically referred to as “events in Algeria. Historian JeanLuc Einaudi’s testimony against Papon brought up.
1961. 2005. while similarly underlining the ﬁlm’s inquiry into history and issues of responsibility and guilt. produced the disastrous outcome of the October massacre. Another minor ofﬁcial step toward the acceptance of the state crime is the silent apology on a plaque afﬁxed by the Municipality of Paris on October 17.”20 The plaque. Many reactions against Chirac’s declaration emphasized how this repressive extension of state control over suburban neighborhoods was emblematic of the persistence of the racist colonial heritage in the administrative mechanism. on a bridge on the Seine dedicated “to the memory of the numerous Algerians killed during the bloody suppression of the peaceful demonstration on October 17. although a brave gesture of recognition on the part of Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanöe. Caché reveals that this [unresolved national shame] has long been hidden in plain 20 My translation. in the Parisian suburb Clichy-sous-Bois following the accidental electrocution of two teenagers of North African origin who hid in a power substation while being chased by the police.”21 The context in which Caché was released has interesting parallels with the repressed history to which the ﬁlm alludes. The Anglo-American press almost unanimously underscored Caché ’s prophetic timing and deciphered the ﬁlm’s meditation on guilt and responsibility as a social commentary on colonial and neocolonial violence in France.fr/ articles/1244/1244p2. Uncannily. during the prefecture of Maurice Papon in 1961. 2001. See plaque at http://www. Caché was released immediately before the same laws that led to the massacre were applied again (after four decades) on the same underclass minority population of Parisian suburbs. Moreover. There was a curious disparity between Caché ’s AngloAmerican reception and its French reception. 21 My translation. While English-language sources emphasized the nationally embedded quality of the narrative. 65 .htm (accessed April 17. .hommes-et-migrations. most of them French citizens of North African origin. 1 | Fall 2010 not been punished. nor have the victims’ families been paid reparations by the French government. displays a sentence deprived of an exact perpetrator. only a few weeks before the biggest riots since May 1968 broke out in Paris. The Film’s Reception. Caché ’s release date was October 5.free.html (accessed April 17. President Chirac declared a state of emergency. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reviewer suggested that “Georges’s ongoing nightmare clearly embodies France’s collective guilt over its colonial past.fr/pages/Combat-oubli. French sources were inclined to describe the “collective guilt” raised in the ﬁlm as a European or a universal concern. See the image of the grafﬁto at http://17octobre1961. French critics. 2007). similar to an earlier grafﬁto on the banks of the Seine written after the incident: “They drowned the Algerians here. . Riots started on October 27. 2007). 2005.Cinema Journal 50 | No. Approximately one week later. . tended to frame Haneke’s work as reﬂecting an ontological or psychological anguish tangentially attached to Caché ’s national topography. such declarations played into a loaded history in Paris: enforcement of a “state of emergency” on the North African population of Paris.
cbc. January 27.”22 Similarly. “Secrets.”24 Along the same lines. What is still striking in French reviews is the complete rupture: any reference to Haneke’s connection of historical injustice to contemporary racism in France was absent in French analyses.html (accessed March 10.coe.000 tickets were sold in France. Jean-Michel Duband’s justiﬁcation of the award of the 2005 Cannes Best Director prize to Haneke is representative of critics’ views on the ﬁlm’s pertinence regarding contemporary France. du réalisateur autrichien Michael Haneke. 26 Jean-Claude Raspiengeas. In the rest of Europe and North America.” Sight and Sound 16. no.” Indiewire. 2005.indiewire. explained that “it is at ﬁrst the complexity of this scenario that uncovers. no. more than half the total number of tickets sold in Europe.com/movies/2005/ 12/a_ view_to_kil. . 27 According to the Lumiere database. on October 5. 25 Brian Price. is how it details passive-aggressive oppression and its manifestation as a slow-building. nearly 500. Therefore. Brian Price has argued that Caché is about “the residue of colonial violence in an ofﬁcially postcolonial Europe [and] the historical continuity of colonial violence: Georges’ racist incrimination in the present has roots in the massacre of Algerian demonstrators in Paris (1961). for the character but also for each of us. “A View to Kill.int/web/ﬁlm_info/?id=23790 (accessed May 12. which made the ﬁlm’s social commentary more immediate for non-French reviewers. . 2007). 2005. Catherine Wheatley noted that “in so far as Caché is an allegory of the French treatment of the Algerians. a Cannes jury member. http://www.”23 Indiewire’s reviewer argued that Caché connects the French past and present: “Watching Caché it’s impossible not to think of the racially charged riots that recently swept through France. 2010). 66 .”25 The disparity between Anglo-American and French reviews is partly due to Caché ’s earlier release in France. Haneke is not calling for the French to be punished for the events of 1961 but for them to acknowledge and apologise for what happened in the past. 1 | Fall 2010 sight. . 2010).ca/arts/ﬁlm/cache. Duband. Caché was well received in France27 and extensively reviewed in the press and in ﬁlm journals. 2 (Fall 2006): 4. and overtake us. “Dossier on Michael Haneke.html (accessed April 7. 24 Michael Joshua Rowin. .” La Croix. in Sight and Sound.” Framework 47.” CBC News.”26 Duband remarks on a brief shot of TV news coverage of Iraq and Palestine in the ﬁlm. “Hidden Agenda. 23. 23 Catherine Wheatley. unresolved societal tension. 2 (2006): 32–34. Le prix du jury oecuménique a été attribué à Caché. Then. http://www. what is buried and can suddenly reappear. the ﬁlm was in theaters during and after the November riots in Paris. but avoids mentioning Caché ’s insistence that perceiving the colonial past as a rupture in French history perpetuates social and political problems in the present. 2005. What makes Caché so devastatingly critical . . December 19. Le Monde reviewer Jean-Luc Douin provided a typical example of how the 22 Jason McBride. May 23.Cinema Journal 50 | No. it was understandable that English-language reviews agreed that Haneke calls for accountability in the neocolonial present by exploring the repressed colonial past and that the ﬁlm is Haneke’s most palpable sociopolitical commentary. Lies & Videotape. 2006. “Festival de Cannes 2005. http://lumiere. the reference to History (Algerian War) and to contemporary events (Iraq and the Middle East).obs.
the ravages of a secret between a couple.” a phrase that neutralizes the power differentials inherently underpinning the brothers’ “dialogue. the identity of the “demons” unleashed.” “neocolonial. where the picture is ﬂattened to the point of ﬁtting a TV screen.” Cahiers du Cinéma. the horror of a grotesque suicide is suspended before us. the return of the repressed. the solitude when facing interior demons. The de-territorialized individual turns into “the universal man” whose drama is too extensive to be considered as a national allegory. 27.” or “postcolonial. This poignant personal drama takes on a universal dimension. admits that violence in the ﬁlm is connected to the suppression of images and sounds.” Le Monde.” which are abundantly paired with the theme of guilt in Anglo-American reviews. for people to look their past in the face. 30 Jean Pierre Rehm. 1 | Fall 2010 ﬁlm was heralded in the majority of French sources.”29 Words such as “colonial. 31.30 28 Jean-Luc Douin. Cahiers du Cinéma reviewer Jean Pierre Rehm. If the characters are hovering so vaguely ghost-like—is there any worse inconsistency than that half-baked evanescence?—it is because they circulate before us in a universe where the sounds resonate mufﬂed. the manner in which culpability eats away at an individual. or rather nowhere and everywhere: On the surface. Yet the reviewer steers the meaning of violence in the ﬁlm from historical events and their larger repercussions to the postmodern crisis of representation and the cruelty of the quotidian in contemporary Western society: Caché ’s brutality resides elsewhere. May 17. for instance. arguments are dissolved.Cinema Journal 50 | No. and by extension. My translation. Although the issues of culpability and violence are discussed in most of the reviews. 29 Ibid. anxieties. Finally. are ubiquitously absent in French commentaries. October 2005. 2005. Here.28 The reviewer refrains from specifying the cause of the “wounds” or of the culpability. “Regard forcé sur les démons de l’enfance pour un homme ﬁlmé à son insu. and family ties are muted. the social background that gives historical and contextual meaning to these terms is largely dismissed. 67 . Caché emphasizes a man’s need to undertake a therapeutic ﬂashback. there is generalized superﬁciality. Douin suggested that the sociopolitical issues Caché explores have a “universal dimension”: This splendid and vertiginous ﬁlm is rich with reﬂections on childhood wounds never to be opened. or that of “the people” whose past is under scrutiny. “Juste sous la surface. exchanges between friends and colleagues are smoothened.” he suggests that the FrenchAlgerian enemy brothers trope symbolizes “the hypocrisy of North-South dialogue. Even when Douin later contextualizes the ﬁlm by hastily mentioning the theme of “the treason of the French petit-bourgeoisie against the Arab.
intolerance toward migrants.signandsight. his face covered with the blood of the animal. in order not to have to confront it. Such de-historicizing commentaries resonate with Code Unknown’s (Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages [Haneke. interview with Dominik Kamalzadeh. interview with Jörg Metelmann. 68 . . but he quickly adds. juste son image manipulée.” Positif 478 (2000): 23. May 18–24. Haneke admits that he based his story on the 1961 massacres because he was shocked that the event was silenced in a country like France.”32 The reviews discussed the acceleration of racism. the fractures in fraternité explored with the French and Algerian enemy brothers. 35 Michel Cieutat and Philippe Rouyer. May 14. trans. guilt. January 26. “Entretien avec Michael Haneke: On ne montre pas la realité. and the national symbol of the rooster associated with blood frequently appearing on the screen—an Algerian boy killing a rooster.Cinema Journal 50 | No. suggesting that October 1961 is only a pretext for a “universal. Governed with a coalition that features Jörg Haider’s extreme right. 2005. “We all are inheritors of the sins committed by our parents. .” Positif 536 (October 2005): 22. Code Unknown explores issues of multiculturalism and tolerance in Paris and was similarly reviewed as a ﬁlm not particularly French but rather European or Austrian: “The shots of Code Unknown address Europe’s tomorrow as much as Austria’s today. 2007. we ask ourselves how best to stave it off.com/features/577. 2000. Die Tageszeitung.html (accessed March 12. the Algerian nationality of the antagonist who. 33 Pascal Mérigeau. “Haneke. “Code inconnu: La main tendue.” December 27.” Le Figaro. 2000]) reviews. puts a silenced history of violence at the heart of civilization (Paris) center stage. Although none of the French reviews question the ﬁlm’s “authenticity. My translation. Confronted with a question regarding the parallel between the riots and the ﬁlm’s depiction of social tensions. “What this is really about is the primal legacy of colonialism and the nations involved labouring with the consequences. Lucy Powell. 2010). and Emmanuelle Frois. such is human existence. by his return from the shadow of the past. “Le choc Haneke.”35 Haneke is more direct when he gives an interview in the German press. he explains. 34 Haneke. My translations. and the roosters in the courtyard as the civil servants of the orphanage forcefully take Majid from the home. 1 | Fall 2010 While Emmanuelle Frois of Le Figaro links the theme of culpability in Haneke’s work to his national origin—“Doesn’t the fact that there is again in Caché the presence of the theme of culpability refer to his [Haneke’s] origins. My translation.” Le Nouvel Observateur. 2003).” that is. in Metelmann. 52–53. Zur kritik der kino-gewalt: Die ﬁlme von Michael Haneke (München: Wilhelm Fink. 32 Stéphane Goudet. . . his country Austria’s past?”— the Le Temps reviewer describes the director’s quest as an exploration of “European bad conscience. http://www . .” they detach it from its historical context. Instead of addressing the problem.”31 Such reviews disregard the symbolic elements that embed Caché ’s narrative within the French context: the literary show-host protagonist as stereotypical high-cultured bourgeois. 36 Haneke. 2006. maître des manipulations. while disregarding parallel issues in France. Unfortunately. . European or Western. “Dix ﬁlms qui nous ont aidés à aimer le cinema en 2005.”36 In the interviews with 31 Le Temps.33 The research Haneke undertook among African and Romanian communities in France before the shooting was only brought up in the director’s interview with German ﬁlm scholar Jörg Metelmann. and the inability to talk about Nazism in Austria.34 Regarding Caché.
I think everyone can recognize this. 12–14. As ﬁlm scholar Patrick Crowley suggests. Considering our Judeo-Christian origins. Thus. which are 37 Haneke in Norbert Creutz. however. a moment of History where individual and national culpability converge. His ﬁrst feature ﬁlm. with slight time lags: every country has its black stains.37 Haneke’s description of his ﬁlm underlines the inherently European appeal of its overarching theme—culpability. or on a more collective level. is based on an article he read in the German news magazine Stern about a Viennese family collectively committing suicide. and entombs. Realism and the Temporal Index. . 38 Crowley.” 269. those same events. Haneke usually points out their documentary aspects. the journalistic response. He associates “our” origins. while 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls ) brings together two distinct headlines: a student’s motiveless killing spree of people in a Viennese bank and a Romanian kid’s escape to Austria. in this case “coincidentally” the origins of the French.and family-centered critique of French society. the ﬁlm’s “terrible realism” and its domestic center bring about a narrative closure that buries what it successfully captures—the perpetuation of historical injustice in present-day France—once again. “When Forgetting Is Remembering. the Muslim. he indicates that the motivation of these stories came from the news items he read and collected on young middle-class murderers. . I suggest. The director’s statement implies an exclusion of the inherently non-European from the “native” European. October 8. in Switzerland or elsewhere. “Je veux déstabiliser les gens. of this reﬂex that we have of hiding things that hurt when they are recalled. . For Benny’s Video (1992) and Funny Games (1997).” Le Temps. The director emphasizes that he makes ﬁlms out of anonymous news items that his audience watches on the go. My translation and emphasis. When talking about his ﬁlms. The Seventh Continent (Der siebente continent ). 69 . underscoring the subject of guilt whose age-old tradition (the Judeo-Christian tradition) is the source of morality. echoes the logic of the ﬁlm itself. the Algerian. I could have situated this story in Austria. Moreover. About his ﬁrst three ﬁlms. 1 | Fall 2010 the French press.Cinema Journal 50 | No. 2005. in the dusty archives. the non-French. Caché ’s framing of guilt emerges from the white European self. it obfuscates the object of the feeling of guilt. “Even as the ﬁlm evokes the events of October 17 it contributes to their ‘forgetting’ by folding the events into a signifying structure that is built upon. re-representing them to draw attention to these events. with the tradition of Judeo-Christian culpability in its positioning vis-à-vis the outsider. in his or her own private life.”38 Haneke’s ﬁlm does detect the problem that the rioters were revolting against: the ways in which the appearance of objectivity in all of its social forms—in media and daily life in the suburbs—is largely a result of the unbroken repetition of colonial values. I think that it is impossible not to confront this theme of culpability. the director is reserved and refrains from contextualizing colonial guilt in France: This ﬁlm speaks of forgetting and repression. But then again.
of “failures of perception and forms of blindness. The hiding of the event “irritated [him] to such an extent that [he] decided we must address this.”41 This historical event. “Dossier on Michael Haneke. we hear a man’s voice in the background: “Well?” A woman replies. Cases as they are sometimes reported with the pretense of horror in illustrated magazines or the local pages of newspapers. 2 (2006): 6. ed. interview with Serge Toubiana.” Producing images that refer to the denial and silencing of a historical event becomes a meta-narrative interrogation of the meaning. is the suspicion that the supposedly irrational acts could have altogether rationally discoverable roots in our life style.” The cut to a closer shot of the house as a man leaves reveals that the earlier image was from a surveillance videotape received by the owners of the house. function.” Code Unknown DVD (Kino. Caché DVD. 42 Haneke. 40 Libby Saxton. its concealment. Haneke’s layered representation of truth recalls and reveals images that have been dismissed. Kate Ince (New York: Macmillan. the literary talk show host Georges and his editor wife Anne. ed. 41 Haneke. “Close Encounters with Distant Suffering: Michael Haneke’s Disarming Visions. an event unknown to him before then.”43 Caché opens with a long and wide shot of a peaceful Parisian house captured from across the street. Haneke tracks and exposes the unwillingness to see and “how the limitations and expansions of our vision are often politically situated. and the contemporary repercussions of such violence (both of the event and its silencing) are central to Caché ’s structure. My emphasis. “Press Kit. “All three ﬁlms show an act of violence that lacks sufﬁcient sociological and psychological explanation. no.”42 In Caché. and despite the manipulation of images. as the victims’ ghosts return to survey the living from off-screen space—and to hold them to account. After watching this static shot for over two minutes. 2000).” The man questions further: “Where was it?” “In a plastic bag on the porch. 43 Brian Price.Cinema Journal 50 | No. Haneke asks how our beliefs prevent us from seeing what is happening. 2002). however. “Nothing.”40 The ﬁlm is based on a documentary Haneke watched on the French TV channel ARTE about the 1961 massacres. He situates images as suspect yet simultaneously claims their testimonial value. The opening long take of the house proves to be a surveillance video 39 Michael Haneke. as well as the nature of reception. Willy Riemer (Riverside. CA: Ariadne Press.” in After Postmodernism: Austrian Literature and Film in Transition. and representative quality of the image. The director’s exploration of the truth claims of the image continually brings up the question of audience reception. 32. As ﬁlm scholar Libby Saxton notes. as a search for truth within. 172. “Caché ’s images are haunted by the memory of this  atrocity and the media’s role in its repression. Haneke says.” Framework: The Journal of Cinema & Media 47.” in Five Directors: Auteurism from Assayas to Ozon.”39 Caché is similarly a critique reﬂecting on how media make an event and the personalities involved invisible. memories that are “hidden. The real horror about them. 2008). The ﬁlm’s temporal index suggests that Haneke is blending ﬁlm and video images to evoke multi-temporality in the present. “71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance: Notes to the Film. and also to evoke the history of injustice as a continuity presented to us as rupture. 70 . Haneke’s realism in Caché constructs itself against the repression of its images. 1 | Fall 2010 popularly known as the “Glaciation Trilogy” (Vergletscherungs-trilogie).
which shoots the tape.” Frey. watching the past as if it were the present.” 86. The suspense is augmented not only by the decentering and spatial expansion of the threat posed by images. distorting the spectator’s sense of space. their son. we are closer to the ﬁlm characters than we had perceived. and because both the ﬁlm itself and the surveillance video are shot with a highdeﬁnition digital camera. Georges ﬁnds his childhood foe. the spectator is distanced from the image by the invisible presence of another camera. The surveillance camera records the meeting and its traumatic effect on Majid. The tapes thus start to foreshadow his movements. receives a card at school with a similarly childish image of a boy gushing blood from his mouth.” Framework: The Journal of Cinema & Media 47. and the Desubstantiated Image.44 While spectators believe that they are looking at the house from its outside. What we see is a previously recorded scene on a videotape within the ﬁlm. until then. “Close Encounters with Distant Suffering. The spatial arrangement immediately puts the spectator side by side with Georges and Anne—the stereotypical bourgeois couple who appear under the same names in all Haneke ﬁlms. no. The tapes’ dual trajectory—provoking the past and foreshadowing the future—continue to rupture the diegetic continuity to show other temporalities that are lived simultaneously with the ﬁlmic present. along with the two protagonists. Thus. unknown to the audience. The second tape the couple receives is another one showing their house. 2 (2006): 33. Thus. the surveillance videotape informs Anne of Georges’s confrontation with Majid. Pierrot. which the spectator has already witnessed. but also temporally: the violent childish drawings aim to unveil the darker territories of childhood. which has remained. The last tape records the confrontation between Georges and Majid. the fourth tape shows a run-down apartment in a Parisian suburb. The video images simultaneously target the past and the future: they are intended both to provoke memories of Georges’s past actions and to direct his future moves. from capturing the protagonist’s present to traveling to his past. 1 | Fall 2010 image.” Saxton. Next. Matthias Frey suggests that this seamless transition between types of images “destabilizes the spectator by presenting a desubstantiated image. they are. The surveillance videotapes thus gradually change function. 71 . his childhood that the tape tracks) and directs him to follow its clues (he visits his mother after seeing the tape and tries to provoke her memory about Majid. and thus it enforces the unveiling of the 44 The opening sequence and later incorporation of video images within the narrative have generally been considered as Haneke’s warning against the manipulation of the image. Majid. in fact. Georges receives the same card at his ofﬁce. Then. Tracing the clues on this tape. a fact that her husband had spared her. the Algerian orphan). a rupture in temporality perceived as continuity. while more distant from the image itself. The image of the house on the video belongs to the ﬁlm’s past. the past of the diegesis. shot at night and accompanied by a disturbing childish drawing of a rooster whose throat is cut and bleeding. from the very beginning “every image becomes suspect. Caché. Moreover. The third tape reveals personal information about Georges. While the spectators think they are situated in the present time of the narrative. the transitions between the two kinds of images is seamless.Cinema Journal 50 | No. This spatial disorientation is complemented by a confused sense of time. in fact they are watching a video image of the house from inside that same house. showing a car driving to the family farm where he spent his childhood. from stalking him to forcing him to visit the places shown on the videos. “Benny’s Video. the tape points to Georges as the target (it is his past. In opposition to this proximity with the ﬁlm’s characters.
Georges: Who has been terrorizing my family? Majid: I don’t know. 1 | Fall 2010 protagonist’s past: Georges is obliged to confess to Anne (and the spectator) about Majid’s parents’ death in the 1961 massacre. halfway through the script. framing him in medium close-up—a camera perspective rarely used by Haneke. . The confrontation between Georges and Majid in Caché (Les Films du Losange. which contains the only verbal interaction between Majid and Georges. The confrontation scene. is symbolically located at the center of the ﬁlm. Georges and Majid are gradually distanced from each other and placed into separate frames. As the conversation proceeds. . Majid is captured Figures 2 and 3.Cinema Journal 50 | No. who prefers to draw his camera away from his characters (Figure 2). his parents’ subsequent willingness to adopt the orphaned boy. 72 . Majid gestures to the past while Georges wants to keep their exchange in the present. Why do you talk like we’re strangers? . Conversely. 2005). The camera is tighter on Georges. How did you wind up on TV? You didn’t take over the estate? Georges: Tell me what you want. and his own lies about Majid to dissuade his parents from adoption.
The climactic confrontation is restaged from an alternative perspective to show Anne what took place in the apartment that Georges claimed was an “unoccupied storeroom. . . and gradually. The camera’s distance from Majid emphasizes his destitution and provides material for comparison between his house and that of Georges. Anne: An interlude? Georges: What should I call it. we come to think less of him. it must be a storeroom or something like that. he bursts into tears soon after Georges departs. disbelief. a tragedy? Maybe it was a tragedy. . The shift of focus from the Georges-Majid confrontation to the confrontation between Georges and Anne transforms Anne’s role from mediator to plaintiff.Cinema Journal 50 | No.45 The interrogator (Georges) gradually becomes interrogated by the camera. No. I don’t know. and his past up in “an unoccupied storeroom” proves to be impossible when the videotape of this meeting reaches Anne.” Georges’s desire to “lock” this confrontation. heavy breathing. nobody was in. Interview with Serge Toubiana. I don’t feel responsible for it. The video footage of Georges’s confrontation with Majid produces a ﬂashback that reiterates the reality of the meeting. Why should I? It’s all so absurd. shot from Georges’s point of view (Figure 3). I had no choice. and ﬁnally nausea: she looks at her husband with repugnance. Anne too is gradually placed in a separate frame from Georges. to extract the truth. . The video camera’s extension of the scene is crucial since it takes this central scene away from Georges. omitting the lies he had made up to prevent his parents from adopting Majid: Georges: It was only an interlude of a few months. diminishes the recently acquired centrality of Majid’s story. however. which erases the mark of Georges’s subjective perspective. and he makes a tepid confession: “You were older and stronger than me. like Anne. with Anne. he said it was unoccupied. it was locked. Majid’s: now Majid is the person with whom we end the scene. .” Georges is pressed from the two sides: after witnessing Majid’s suffering the spectator too interrogates him. 73 . the spectator sees the meeting’s traumatic effect on Majid. reproducing the ﬁlm through the video. Georges tells Majid’s story. Different camera perspectives on the two also show Georges’s anxiety and childish incommunicativeness in opposition to Majid’s visibly calm disposition. Furthermore. Caché DVD. What sets the videotaped image of the Georges-Majid meeting apart from that of the ﬁlm’s original record of their encounter is the wide angle. This change of position. He calls Anne but hides his confrontation with Majid: “I went round. Like Majid in the previous scene. First she is visibly angry but curious. the memory of Majid. After a long. The confrontation with Majid leads to a confession and confrontation between the couple and raises issues of trust and problems in their own relationship.” Georges leaves the house after threatening Majid. his would-be brother. then her curiosity is replaced by anxiety. and makes it the antagonist’s. This forced ﬂashback not only refreshes Georges’s memory of the meeting and of his past 45 Haneke mentions that such representation builds itself against mainstream cinema’s depiction of the victimperpetrator dynamic in racially informed confrontations. I did. it was just one in a row of doors. interrogating gaze by Anne. . the protagonist. 1 | Fall 2010 in a long shot situating him in his surroundings.
on how ﬁlm can structurally incorporate subversion and self-reﬂexive devices into its lexicon. and Peter Weibel (Cambridge. Ursula Frohne. claims it as a witness. the historicity of the narrative that the audience rejects (or fails to see). from the past to the present. . The director makes “the image a suspect” and also.’” in Ctrl [space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother. 74 . pointing to ruptures in space and time. 47 Thomas Y. we must examine the problems that arise from the dilemma that Caché ’s ﬁlmic reality faces in its focus on audience affect.46 Thomas Levin claims that ingraining real or ﬁctional surveillance videos within a ﬁlm’s narrative is a way to compensate for unreliable ﬁlm images with a supposedly objective and live referentiality. he ﬁlmed Der siebente Kontinent (1989) when he was 47. 1 | Fall 2010 but also displays a previously invisible perspective: it extends Majid’s side of the story. his ﬁrst feature ﬁlm came late in his career. as it adds a critical function to the surveillance videos.” 273. At its heart. 585.”47 Haneke. “Rhetoric of Temporal Index: Surveillant Narration and the Cinema of ‘Real Time. Surveillance videos. Levin. and thus to some extent to seek the bourgeois spectator’s identiﬁcation. thus implying the reliability of his image. Thomas Y. MA: MIT Press. In the beginning. he thus shows historical injustice as a continuity presented to us as ruptures. an attempt to get ever closer to reality: “If the unproblematic referentiality of cinematic photograms is under siege. . . Caché functions as a reﬂection on the power of images and their ability to 46 Patrick Crowley points to a similar scene in his analysis of Caché: “When we listen to Georges and Anne anxiously discuss Pierrot’s apparent disappearance we attend to their domestic drama at the price of listening to news of the world broadcast in the background. two rides that force him to confront his past. the surveillance tapes acquire the function of chronicling the unseen. in dialectical contradiction to that. is to restore shock-value to the image. . In fact. And. 2002). The tapes take the protagonist to his parents’ house and then to the suburbs of Paris. .Cinema Journal 50 | No. then.48 has endowed space in Caché with the temporal “reality effect” of the videos. .” Crowley. . The mediating video images document what the protagonist and the spectators fail to see. ed. video images’ witnessing remains limited to a comment on the nature of image. it makes great sense to start appropriating a type of imaging characterized by deﬁnition . Reviewer Catherine Wheatley explains that “part of Haneke’s project in [Caché ] . But the spatial indexicality that aims to create a link between the protagonist and the Western art house audience. To clarify this point. who is familiar with both ﬁlm and television semiotics. Thus. reliable referentiality. ﬁnally. The real victim is not on screen but sitting in the darkened theater. . Haneke’s appropriation of the temporal indexicality of surveillance video enables a narrative in passé composé (present perfect. . Levin. This extended perception in the last video is crucial. providing a perspective that differs from the protagonist’s point of view. literally a “compound past” that stretches to the present) rather than a narrative cloistered in the passé simple (simple past). at some point contradicts and obfuscates the temporal indexicality that captures the past in the present. “When Forgetting Is Remembering. but the historical/racial confrontation quickly turns into a critique of bourgeois family life that overshadows the scene. surveillance is presented as the source of suspense while also disorientating the audience in spatial and temporal terms. 48 Haneke has worked for both German and Austrian television. . in terms of its seemingly unproblematic. both before and for some time after he started making feature ﬁlms. lead the story and the characters in their search for a solution to the mystery.
the suicide scene has to be credible but also has to accomplish a “terrible realism. which the director believes stimulates mental processes and propels thinking on violence. in Metelmann. like a surrealist painting that aims to reach out. CA: Stanford University Press. the blood on the wall becomes the poster of the ﬁlm.52 Haneke’s aesthetics of violence is that of Dadaism and futurism where “the relation of art to an audience understood to be passive.” 23. “We can even consider that this suicide is a special effect!”51 Indeed.”50 Thus..”49 Wheatley speciﬁcally points to the suicide scene. can only be assault. Do shock and disbelief have the potential to extract guilt? More signiﬁcantly. Haneke explains. and thus inherent incommunicability of Majid and his unnamed son. This absent presence. 32. original emphasis. similarly. Brigitte Peucker’s careful analysis of Haneke’s work detects two interrelated tendencies in the director’s ﬁlms: disturbing acts of violence and the tableaux of bourgeois melodrama. “Secrets. but rather: How do I show the spectator his own position vis-à-vis violence and its representation. My translation. The Material Image: Art and the Real in Film (Stanford. and shake its viewer. and fears. or a pretext to contemplate guilt. Caché ’s focus on provoking guilt in its bourgeois audience inherently limits this very possibility since it pushes the director to the limit of sacriﬁcing the victim to force out affect. The scene also vividly projects Haneke’s philosophical stance on ﬁlm violence. one more death to commemorate the October 1961 victims? 49 Wheatley. 1 | Fall 2010 generate guilt. The fact that Majid and his son have limited psychological depth as characters limits the suicide’s effect on the audience to reﬂexive shock and disbelief. grab. the director’s treatment of violence is far from Brechtian intellectual provocation. inert. a guilt whose very existence is void in the illusion of presence of a subject that is inherently incapable of raising audience empathy and responsibility. 2007). guilt. the Algerian Other becomes an inaccessible text. as the ﬁlm scholar suggests. 75 . his ﬁlms denounce the bourgeoisie yet produce representations of bourgeoisie for the bourgeois art house audience. 51 Cieutat and Rouyer.” 50 Haneke.”53 Taking Peucker’s argument one step further. 132. 142. one needs to examine the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim of violence in Haneke’s work and the development of the perpetrator and victim as characters throughout the ﬁlm. is it necessary to produce one more Algerian victim. form the basis of my critique here. The irony in the way the director deals with his obsessive themes (bourgeoisie and violence) is that he denounces violence by representing violence.” most shocking for intense audience affect and reaction. Haneke depends strongly on the shocking power of the suicide scene to generate guilt in his spectator. Haneke assaults the spectator to attain affect. Lies & Videotape. it forces its audience “into the realm of programmed emotion” and creates melodramas obsessed with heightened emotions. surfeited. “Entretien avec Michael Haneke. 52 Brigitte Peucker.Cinema Journal 50 | No. His representation of violence is always intended to push the audience to question its affective relationship to the image: “The question—regarding VIOLENCE—is not: How do I show violence. 53 Ibid. Zir kritik der kino gewalt. However. With the focus on French bourgeois guilt and affect.
57 Ibid. The nameless son. in a mediated sense. or his own.. no. in turn.. if not recognition of his innocence by the audience. according to Halbwachs. to crush them beneath the weight of remorse. in Paul Gilroy’s words. represents society at large. Especially when “the desperate person seems to wish to provoke a scandal by the outrageous or unexpected nature of his act to terrify and torture his survivors. in his eyes. Majid’s narrative is incommunicable. Majid’s more reactive son. and possibly in viewers as well. Violent Refrains: La Pianiste. 18. 55 Ibid. which are “programmed conditions” to provoke guilt in Georges. 300. crying on the videotape after the confrontation).”56 Ma mentions the difﬁculty of disregarding the power dynamics in play when it is a female victim whose body is objectiﬁed in the masochistic aesthetic. and points out that there are close analogies between a suicide and a sacriﬁce. in Sartre’s 54 Maurice Halbwachs. 56 Deleuze.” he commits suicide in front of a particular person who. in Jean Ma. Sociologist Maurice Halbwachs indicates that a suicide becomes less impressive if we cannot perceive the motivation or formulated thought behind it. “is an exclusively aesthetic event. as it lacks more viable visual and textual language. in Caché. in The Piano Teacher. Such suicide.” Grey Room 28 (Summer 2007): 17. “Shooting Crabs in a Barrel. as bodies that “preserve” the “excess of violence”? Does not Haneke confer upon the bourgeois art house audience the right “to draw out the violence of the world to multiply it” and.” Majid’s violent suicide places him in the position of masochist while both Georges and the spectators. become sadists. . 58 Paul Gilroy.” Majid exists in his death and suffering (dying on the ﬁlm. recalls “certain forms of sacriﬁce of imprecation and vengeance. is incapable of telling his father’s story. to map the position of already subordinated subjects as doomed to containing violence within themselves. masochism reﬂects the excess of violence in order to reconstruct it in a different format that nonetheless still preserves this excess. 1978).” Screen 48. too.”55 Halbwachs’s description illuminates the function of Majid’s suicide: Haneke sacriﬁces Majid to imprecate the audience with guilt by staging a public self-prosecution with a mute accusation: “You all are my murderers. What are the problematic connotations of representing the female. [to have] a man’s life on [his] conscience. since “while sadism draws out the violence of the world in order to multiply it . like Jean Ma’s analysis of Erika Kohut’s self-mutilation and masochistic fantasies in Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (La Pianiste ). would separate this masochism and sadism as fundamentally different positions. in his confrontation with Georges after Majid’s death. “Discordant Desires. thus assuring an aesthetic and narrative closure? A Deleuzian explanation of masochism as “an ascent from the human body to the work of art”57 is pertinent here in the sense that Majid’s suicide. His story is closed and removed from the ﬁlm as a passive-aggressive death whose only meaning is the imposition of affect/guilt. 1 | Fall 2010 Suicide and Guilt. seems to approach Georges only because he “wondered how it feels. to project on to them clearly the responsibility for his death. The Causes of Suicide (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 76 . devoid of all meaning apart from what it communicates about Georges. . and the postcolonial minority.”58 Majid’s act. That’s all.Cinema Journal 50 | No.54 Halbwachs argues that most suicides have a societal basis. 2 (Summer 2007): 234. A Deleuzean reading of Majid’s masochism.
62 Ibid. Original emphasis. 2006). while in La pianiste Haneke consciously omits the ﬂashbacks to Erica Kohut’s childhood in Jelinek’s novel. 531. trans. the ﬁnal wide shot in front of the high school where Majid’s son and Pierrot have a mute and barely visible dialogue is symbolic of this communication void.”62 Majid’s suicide rejects a feeling of guilt that opens one’s heart and eyes to the Other’s pain by enclosing it in the antagonist himself.”61 Thus. Majid’s masochism may only produce an inert. 61 Ibid. but we never see his ﬂashbacks. interview with Serge Toubiana. Beneath the son’s calm but deﬁant tone. 64 Reﬂecting the past in Benny’s Video is persistently “objectiﬁed” through the use of videotapes. Presenting the past in Georges’s ﬂashbacks/nightmares prioritizes the history through his lens. Being and Nothingness (L’être et le néant. It is the inaccessibility of Majid’s subjectivity throughout the ﬁlm that erases any possibility of recognition of the Other. at some level.”60 Eventually. of which the ﬁlm is an adaptation. who has unremittingly refrained from using ﬂashback and consciously rejected the heavy subjectivity connoted in the technique in his previous ﬁlms. 77 ..64 portrays Georges’s psychopathological memory of Majid in the form of dark nightmares stained with blood.Cinema Journal 50 | No. In this respect. Majid is sent to an orphanage where “he learned only hatred and suffering. Haneke. 63 Haneke admits that most spectators did not even discern the two sons among the large crowd of people. In Seventh Continent the director underlines his rejection of the technique of telling the family’s past through ﬂashbacks. ). Caché. later he decided to make it an ambiguous ﬁnale.. and true to its own main theme. 518. self-centered. there is a hint of what he and his father endured. 492. The Seventh Continent DVD (Kino. denies its victim any communication with the perpetrator.” The position of the masochist is a self-deception. 59 Jean-Paul Sartre. nor do we see the story from his or from Majid’s eyes or perspective. a futile effort to eliminate the subject position and turn oneself into an object: “The more [the masochist] tries to taste his objectivity. 1956). 1 | Fall 2010 terms. Majid’s absent presence in the ﬁlm is most striking in the ﬂashback/dream sequence scenes that recall the past through Georges’s point of view. Although he wrote dialogue for that scene. the more he will be submerged by the consciousness of his subjectivity. enclosed. Haneke.”59 while producing sadists who are entitled to “treat the Other as an instrumental object. subjective conception of guilt rather than exerting an existential guilt that emerges from reciprocal human recognition: “It is before the Other that I am guilty.. 529. but the fact that the sons’ meeting takes place only after Majid’s death raises another question: Does the past need to be buried to open the way to future communication—an idea eerily reminiscent of Sarkozy’s suggestion to “look toward the future” rather than “dwelling on the past”? My wariness of the optimism of the ﬁnal scene is due to the ﬂashback scene that precedes it. a narrative about denial of guilt.” his son tells Georges. Hazel E.63 Does the meeting of the two sons propose the possibility of a dialogue for future generations? The ending does point to that possibility. 60 Ibid. seek[ing] to utilize the Other’s body as a tool to make the Other realize an incarnated existence. both masochism and sadism are only “assumptions of guilt. is “a perpetual effort to annihilate [his] subjectivity by causing it to be assimilated by the Other. Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press.
In this sense. 67 Barkan. the ﬁlm is “raising history only to reduce it to nothing more than a piece of tragic machinery in the fatal antagonism that undoes Caché ’s protagonists. As Maureen Turim explains. immediately preceding the ﬁnal scene. already eliminated in the present. the spectator is freed to forget it once again. We know little about his life in a ﬁlm on guilt and responsibility. even if Majid’s character were more accessible. “Flashbacks in most cases terminate at precisely the point at which they must be sealed off. he tries to escape. is a wide. when remembering state violence and guilt). dead. the problem of representing the Other would not necessarily be solved—hence the last videotape. . it is helpful to reiterate the problems of memory politics. Made aware of the past. ﬁghts back to avoid being taken away.”66 Conclusion. The camera/the spectator/Georges is hidden in the shadows. Flashbacks in Film: Memory and History (New York: Routledge. when dealing with colonial history in postcolonial France (i. Anne Donadey suggests that. The Guilt of Nations. 66 Gilroy. A child around the age of eight is carried to the car. under the roof of the barn across from the house.” 233. 12. . The spectator has no access to what happens to Majid until he meets Georges again. The would-be adoptive parents who have given the child away withdraw into the house so as not to see this unpleasant scene. To Georges’s and the spectator’s relief. victims’ memory and identity.Cinema Journal 50 | No. in which the imperatives of ﬁxing interpretations and reaching judgments in the present must be imposed..”Shooting Crabs in a Barrel.”65 Yet. mourning for the dead or asking for forgiveness is not enough. The recognition of historical injustices is crucial in establishing the ﬁrst step to “validate . in the present time of the ﬁlm narrative. I do not propose that incorporation of ﬂashbacks from Majid’s or his son’s perspective would have signiﬁcantly shifted the balance or that “balance” should be a principle or goal to be aspired to in the ﬁlm.e. nor do we follow the car to the orphanage where we know they are taking him. 78 . 1 | Fall 2010 The last ﬂashback/dream sequence of the ﬁlm. For both the protagonist and the spectator. the last ﬂashback ensures narrative closure of the past. a ﬁlm ostensibly concerned about his life. however. 1989).” to “transform [the] trauma of victimization into a process of mourning and [to] allow for rebuilding. is carted off through force once again in the past. As Paul Gilroy’s brief analysis of Caché sums up. Before reaching a conclusion on the limits of Caché ’s commemoration of the past. Turim. Majid is already inaccessible. Would the ﬁlm be more successful in proposing a path to progressive political solutions if Georges were able to fully acknowledge his guilt and act on it? This critique does not target the ﬁlm’s lack of a progressive political agenda but rather the inconsistencies that undermine its progressive agenda. the object of discomfort.”67 In her articles on the ﬁctional accounts of the October 1961 massacre and the Algerian War. [today’s] racist acts can be seen as a 65 Maureen C. She claims that simultaneous with memorialization one should always be aware that “at least at the unconscious level. At this point. Producing the Other as a speaking subject might very well have meant containing him. but eventually is locked up in the car that quickly drives off. 323. very distant shot capturing a car parked in front of a scenic French country house.
” The resulting report was not satisfactory. and the spectator’s guilt. responsibility. “mummifying processes of museology that risk diffusing the active. Still. on a similar note. les accélérations de la mémoire. 70 While forming the Mandelkern commission that investigated the October 1961 events. the highly cultivated bourgeois household. the allegory dismisses the two Algerians 68 Anne Donadey. the interior minister of the Socialist Party.” 340. lost colonial war. and silencing of the past from their national and temporal context.net/spip. Thus. Forsdick. “Guerre d’Algérie: 1999–2003. French-language reviews of the ﬁlm have generally reduced the ﬁlm’s reference to historical violence solely to a mnemonic function. remembering repressed pasts should accomplish not solely mourning but passing from guilt of the past to commitment of the present: “Will the current mobilization around the exactions committed in Algeria be reduced to an agitation without a future. as in Benny’s Video—becomes an allegory of the national history of violence. 69 Forsdick. “Direction les oubliettes de l’histoire. Memorialization of violence involves the risk of becoming an end in itself. September 30. and denial on various levels within the family (Anne’s interrogation of Georges. Eventually. the issue of guilt. declared that he was “fully ready to try to get the facts about (the repression of the October 17th 1961 protests) in accordance with the duty of memory. Stora’s discussion of the ambiguity of the discourse of colonial memory with regard to its contemporary repercussions—a problem similarly underlined by sociologist De Laforcade and historian Karen Till—is illuminating for a better understanding of Caché ’s public reception in France.”68 Charles Forsdick. The narrative focuses on forcing out the protagonist’s. “Direction les oubliettes de l’histoire. in doing so. 71 Stora. as some archives remained closed. the couple’s denial of the decadence of their relationship). on the contrary. or.”69 The emergence of memory may become a “duty of memory. so much so that depicting their decadence deﬁnes the setting and theme. 79 . Steven Ungar and Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. may be unproductive. reproduces this absence. ed.” as in 1990s France. http:// www. 221. even counterproductive. as in all previous Haneke ﬁlms. will it set in motion an important change in the French political scene. As we have seen. unless it involves a self-reﬂective contextualization and responsibility that extends to the present. my translation. warns that a period of a positive “identity crisis. The ﬁlm has elements that feed the social forgetting performed by those reviews. interpreting the ﬁlm’s references to the October 1961 massacre as a tangential pretext for “universal” guilt. The crisis—the inherent decadence and repressed violence of a family.ldh-toulon.” LDH Toulon. his family’s.php?article900 (accessed March 12.” in Identity Papers: Contested Nationhood in Twentieth-Century France. The ﬁlm deals with morality. Mainstream French press and cinema journals have detached the ﬁlm. making it possible to attenuate the fears toward the Other. the foreigner?”71 Stora’s critique of possible abuses of the memorialization of historical injustice is directed toward the French political establishment. Jean-Pierre Chevènement.” 345. Anne’s denial of her special relationship with her boss Pierre. 1 | Fall 2010 continuation of the repressed. 1996). It successfully represents the absence of the Algerian from collective memory or guilt but. as Benjamin Stora points out. and perpetrators were not brought to justice.”70 fulﬁlling only in itself if not accompanied by a historicizing of this “duty” (“Why remember now?”). Caché locates the situation of violence in the pillars of French civilization.Cinema Journal 50 | No. 2005. 2010). “‘Une certaine idée de la France’: The Algeria Syndrome and Struggles over ‘French’ Identity.
Vangelis Calotychos.” As in all bourgeois melodramas. NY: Cornell University Press. while it is a pleasure to see a work of art that invites the audience to consider the link between “racism and the pressure of unresolved colonial violence . so he too seems to be deprived of a mother like his father. they did treat Majid gently. 1981). awarding. in the end. having lost the protective French mother. and the Other emerges in the text as an impossible brother who is left out of the French family structure. of colonial conditions. 80 .Cinema Journal 50 | No. that leads to violence. Georges’s parents. 52.” 234–235. “Shooting Crabs in a Barrel. watching the ﬁlm is in itself an experience. ﬁrst feel guilty for their alliance and then feel morally superior to Georges for being able to recognize and fulﬁll their “duty of memory. the narrative closes on the Algerian victims. In Gilroy’s words. it is again the presence. Funding. inertia and poisonous choices than a conﬂicted six year old. 73 Gilroy.72 recall Fanon’s trope of the untutored. 1 | Fall 2010 in the narrative altogether. and seeing the historical injustice now makes up for not having seen it in the past and not seeing the continuing legacy of this injustice. Majid. or at least confused “native children” unable to prevent themselves from self-harm or eternal unhappiness.” Thus. audience members. Majid and his son. they did search for their Algerian farmhands (Majid’s parents). were “good” colonizers meaning to be protective of their foster son. two generations of mother-deprived Algerians. of a colonial gaze. 74 Fredric Jameson. producing. 72 There is no mention of Majid’s son’s mother. The ﬁlm offers an arbitrary narrative solution to active social contradiction since it remembers the dead safely: without bringing them out of silence. . Fanon underscores the perverted logic through which the colonizer imposes his power on the native through the claim that his absence rather than his very presence will cause the native to lapse back into “bestiality.”73 While the Algerian characters are obsessed with the recognition of their suffering. This is the source of “structural limitation and ideological closure” in Haneke’s narrative. Then again. one could say that by killing Majid. the emphasis on Georges’s colonial guilt removes his parents’ responsibility (again similar to the Sarkozian discourse claiming the innocence of parents). . and they had every intention of adopting him. suicidal. The Political Unconscious (Ithaca. not the absence.74 ✽ I am grateful to Kristin Ross. drawing a parallel between Fanon’s description and Majid’s suicide. who initially identify with the bourgeois couple. the relationship of the colonial past to the postcolonial present is perverted and confused by the idea that today’s complacent and indifferent adults bear no more responsibility for their resignation. Haneke implies the effects of postcolonialism are similar to the effects of colonialism. evidence of being the good liberal postcolonial French citizen capable of remembrance and repentance. and two anonymous Cinema Journal reviewers for their insightful suggestions on an earlier draft of this article. if only Georges had not prevented this plan with his lies.
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