Directed by Michael Haneke Hidden follows George Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), a French television presenter living in Paris with his wife and son. When mysterious videos of his house are anonymously sent to him, his increasing unease leads him on a hunt to uncover who is responsible. As he becomes increasingly desperate he is forced to deal with moments from his past he has kept hidden for years. A tense, claustrophobic piece of cinema, Hidden is essentially a study of the central characters behaviour and his reaction to guilt.
Hidden is driven by Georges attempts to uncover who is responsible, very much in the style of a ‘who done it?’ thriller, but there’s also another equally intriguing question. What has Georges done in his past to deserve being terrorised. How bad is it? Should we feel sorry for this man or not? As he begins to lie to his wife and hide his movements from her, a sense builds that he may not be the victim here. The performances are uniformly terrific and Daniel Auteil in particular is pitch-perfect as a man having his comfortable middle-classed life ripped from from under him, as he battles inner demons from his past. You’re never entirely sure whether you are supposed to be with him or not, his performance finds the knife edge.
Perhaps the finest aspect of Hidden is the brilliance of the direction and camerawork. Tension is masterfully built up during individual scenes, in many cases without anything threatening ever actually happening, creating a real sense of paranoia. Haneke achieves this without the use of music, multiple cuts or any chases, very impressive. The static camera shots invite the viewer to trawl the background of the scenes for clues, or danger. Shots are set up in such a way that there is always something to arouse your suspicion, an unusual looking man, an open door or someone in the background using a video camera. It forces you to inspect every frame, every aspect of the landscape, advancing the theme of ‘hiding’ to a new level. Rarely have I felt so uncomfortable and tense during a film, and that was before one of the most brutal and shocking scenes I have ever watched.
The film deals not only with conscience, reactions to guilt, and the hiding of dark moments from the past at the personal level, but also at the national level. There are several references to the murder of hundreds of Algerians in Paris during the 60s, an event which has been largely hidden away in French history without recognition. This parallels Georges personal reluctance to deal with the guilt from his past. Both events are Hidden, but cannot remain so. In this way the entire film could be viewed as a further ‘video’, to be sent out to the country as a whole, and its national conscience, in the same way that the videos sent to Georges were intended to make him deal with guilt from his past.
The final scene is so long, static and seemingly pointless that it might make you feel genuinely angry. But watch closely, it is in fact a wonderful conclusion. Lost on the fringes of the shot is an interaction that opens up more possibilities and provides clues as to who the perpetrators may be. Is it another video to be sent to Georges, as a threat? Or is it proof that exposes those who have been sending the tapes?
This film definitely falls into the ‘love it or hate it’ category, I can’t see much middle ground. It is a film that generates discussion, theories and debate. For me, a great piece of cinema, you’ll be amazed how long such a seemingly simple film can linger in your mind. The reason, it is far from simple.