Writer/director Michael Haneke (Time of the Wolf, Code Unknown) plays with the fear of an unknown assailant, constantly stalking his/her victim. Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil, Apres Vous, The Closet), a television personality, and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche, Bee Season, Jet Lag) find a videocassette tape on their doorstep. Somebody shot their house from across the street for nearly two hours. They brush it off as a strange fan of Georges', but the tapes continue to arrive. Soon they come with ominous drawings, and the Laurent's begin to receive strange phone calls. Cache is an exercise in tension, and Haneke wrings his characters until they crack.

This is a French thriller clearly in the vein of With a Friend Like Harry, Merci Pour le Chocolat, or Red Lights. These movies focus on the terror that the victim is feeling. Americans may not enjoy them too much because the endings are often ambiguous, and sometimes the explanations are absent. Cache falls in the former category. A long shot over the final minutes of the film shows the steps of a school, and children speaking with each other. There are two obvious explanations as to what is happening, and both contradict each other. There are a myriad of possible explanations, but Haneke doesn't want to explain things away.

He is concerned with how the Laurents, and Georges in particular, deals with this enormous stress. The pictures that come with the tapes are crude, and show a man with a stream of blood coming from his neck. This is sufficient to unnerve anybody, but Georges does not have the first clue who this person may be. A picture showing a decapitated chicken leads him to Majid (Maurice Benichou, The Time of the Wolf, Amelie), an Algerian who grew up with his family. Georges' parents were going to adopt Majid until other circumstances arose. Georges tracks down Majid and confronts him, only later to find that somebody taped the two of them inside Majid's apartment.

Auteuil does a great job with Georges' rampant paranoia. The police want proof, and the Laurents have none. The additional tapes put a great strain on his marriage, and he pulls away from Anne instead of confiding in her. It's a vicious circle, since this adds even more strain. Adding to the overall sense of foreboding is Haneke's penchant for uninterrupted shots, frequent silence, and non-use of ambient music. The only thing on the screen are the tapes and Georges' unseen fears. Auteuil is one of France's best actors. He always seems like a normal guy in abnormal situations, so the audience can always relate to what he's doing. This works to Auteuil's advantage here, since his extreme actions are the result of his desire to protect his family. What he does is shocking, but is it really anything different from what any normal person would do?

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 1 minute, French with English subtitles, Rated R for brief strong violence.

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