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By Patrick Samuel • October 20th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Les Films du Losange

Original release: October 5th, 2005
Running time: 118 minutes

Country of origin: Austria, France
Original language: French

Writer and director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou


Responsibility. Not really a short word, not exactly a long one either, but a difficult one for many people. What does it mean? To be responsible is to know what you have to do and without fail, to do it. To be responsible is to be reliable and dependable, but what is it to take responsibility? That’s something altogether different isn’t it? It’s a step that many of us don’t take easily. How many of us have done that when we needed to? It’s much easier to let someone else to take the blame and hope the situation will fizzle out in time.

Hidden, a film written and directed by Michael Haneke is all about taking responsibility. The story’s centred on the Laurent family; Daniel Auteuil plays Georges, a television presenter who begins to receive mysterious packages in the post containing videotapes of him and his family secretly filmed, along with disturbing drawings and soon after, sinister telephone calls as well. The family is then plunged into turmoil as they try to figure out who’s behind it all but it threatens to tear them apart even further as there are very dark secrets lying in Georges’ long forgotten past. As Georges tries to trace the tapes, he’s lead to Majid (Maurice Bénichou), an Algerian man whose parents worked for his family before they were killed in the Paris massacre of 1961.

From the very beginning, Hidden makes us think about the way we view things we’d ordinarily take for granted. This happens in the first scene and is continued throughout. It’s so effective that I found myself wondering if I was viewing the scene through my own eyes as a viewer or if I was viewing it as a pre-recorded videotape and waiting for an indication which one it was.

“The opening image of Hidden seems objective – a view of a street – but then is revealed to be subjective (in being the viewpoint of an actual observer who has recorded the street on video). The filmgoer receives a very simple and direct shock to thought – the rewound video immediately alters our perception of the street. From being a relatively meaningless establishing image, of location and time, to being a scoped and intended image (the gaze of another). Hidden thus shocks us into realising that perhaps all images are thought, are intended and directed. Subsequently, the film takes on an added intention. The film that follows Anne and Georges from lounge to kitchen suddenly feels watchful and subjective.” ~ Daniel Framptopn, Filmosophy, page 144


As a film which goes on to ask what we’re willing to take responsibility for and how much responsibility, Hidden goes about doing this in two ways. First with the Parisians (like Georges’ parents), who felt somehow responsible for the deaths of the 200 Algerians in 1961 at the hands of 20,000 French police (in the film, Majid’s parents were among the 200 Algerians who were protesting), and on another level with Georges refusing to accept responsibility for what happened to Majid. One way to avoid his moral responsibility is to resort to self deception. Like his television programme, Georges prefers to edit out what he doesn’t like and only keeps the things he wants viewers to see. It helps explain one of his reasons for burying his lies so deeply that even he cannot access them.

With regards to the Parisians taking responsibility for the deaths of the Algerians, philosophers have argued that collective moral responsibility isn’t possible because not everyone makes the same decisions. Should moral responsibility be collective in this case? Should it be collective with those who were killed in the Holocaust, as well as the Rwandan and Kurdish Genocides? Hidden makes us question all of these ideas rather than just reflect it, Haneke leaves it to us to sort through these moral dilemmas.

While watching the film, viewers might feel compelled to find out who’s sending them, but the Hidden never arrives at such an answer. We might think it must’ve been Majid sending the tapes, and in the final scene in the there’s a long pull back shot outside Georges son’s school. The school children are coming out of the building and it’s very difficult to spot, but in the midst of them we can see Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) on the steps talking to Majid’s son. It’s so hard to spot them as they seem hidden. Although the dialogue’s never heard, we’re left to think about the conversation they might be having as there was never any prior indication these two boys knew each other.

Was them who sent the videotapes and drawings to Georges in an attempt to finally get him to recognise the effects his lies had on Majid’s life? In an interview for The Hidden Guardian, Haneke talked about when people continually ask “whodunit” and that they miss the point completely. The film’s not about trying to figure out who did it, but rather how a person can deceive themselves and live with their actions, as in the case of Georges, and how that deceit rises to the surface, but he also gives some insight into what might be going on in the final scene:

“Although this scene happens in silence, I did actually write dialogue for it. The actors are actually speaking it and it might stand as an explanation for some. In any case, that dialogue will never be written in the published screenplay for the film and I told the actors never to reveal it to anyone. They are bound to silence forever and I hope they will have forgotten it by now, because they didn’t know when they were shooting it what the significance of the scene might be.” ~ Michael Haneke

Another suggestion that Daniel Frampton makes is that no one sent Georges videotapes. The film sent them. Frampton suggests it’s the film that accuses George of his sins and forces him to take moral responsibility which he ultimately refuses:

“What Hidden’s filmthinking presents us with is unwavering attention, the attention of history, of time itself on the events of now. It is the film itself, as past rising up to the present, that accuses Georges – the image almost hums with intention.” ~ Daniel Frampton, Filmosophy, page 144

It’s not such a bizarre conclusion to arrive at if we take into consideration that this film is unlike most films; it delivers philosophical problems and asks how we would tackle them. The question over who sent the tapes becomes redundant once we uncover the real questions.

Ultimately, Hidden begs the question “What would you do if you were about to be revealed?” We would like to think we’d choose to do the right thing and I am sure this is what Georges would’ve thought too. Georges, through his selfish nature seeks to protect himself and the life he’s created for family, but first and foremost he doesn’t want his secret to come out and does everything to prevent his wife from finding out until she’s sent a videotape of his visit to Majid. His boss is also sent a videotape of him threatening Majid, so despite his efforts, the truth, forced by his guilt is slowing revealing itself through the film. In the end, his secret is out and his actions become known to everyone, all that’s left for him is to face up to those responsibilities which he’s so effectively ignored over the years.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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