Ten years on, Michael Haneke has yet to best the disturbing Hidden
With a set up reminiscent of David Lynch’s somewhat tedious Lost Highway, Hidden opens with couple Georges and Anne, played by Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, being sent videotapes secretly filmed outside their house. As the videotapes grow more intimate, the couple begin to question the reason behind the tapes, and Anne discovers her husband isn’t quite what he seems.
Slow and hypnotic, Michael Haneke’s 2005 thriller Hidden is certainly one of his best works. I’ve been critical of many Haneke films for feeling smug and indulgent, as if Haneke knows how clever he is and really wants to spend two hours demonstrating it to you (his Funny Games remake is among my least favourite films). Hidden works because it’s perhaps his most straightforward and purely entertaining (if that’s the right word) film. Both his leading actors are excellent. Binoche in particular, a national treasure in France, does terrific work as the wife who slowly uncovers more skeletons in her husband’s closet. Though the film has a fairly small amount of plot, it does enter rich, dark, disturbing territory when Georges believes the tapes are coming from a lonely Algerian man (Maurice Bénichou, sympathetic in a somewhat ambiguous role), and the audience is left to decide who is right and wrong.
Where Hidden falls is at the final hurdle. I’m perfectly happy with ambiguous endings, and Hidden lends itself well to be a mystery with no conclusion. However, a film still needs some form of climax to be an overall satisfying experience. Hidden has a chilling resolution to one of its plots, yet feels the need to continue for another half hour, until it fades out quietly, in a completely unsatisfying way. Haneke has the perfect emotional climax to the film; why keep it going much longer than necessary? Thankfully, the anti-climax doesn’t spoil the rest of the film. Ambiguous, complex, and genuinely creepy, Hidden is a waking nightmare of a film, and perhaps Michael Haneke’s best work to date.
By Harry Ford