Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou, Annie Girardot
Director: Michael Haneke
After a tense summer of rioting in France’s cities last year, the issue and effects of la republique’s imperial past are more sensitive than ever. In Austrian film director Michael Haneke’s (THE PIANO TEACHER) thriller, the ‘Algerian question’ as it’s sometimes called, stands as a skeleton in the closet throughout the film.
Georges (Daniel Auteil) hosts an arts discussion programme on TV and lives with his wife (Juliette Binoche) a publisher, and teenage son in a pretty town house full of books, videos and paintings. They are members of a cosmopolitan elite – well educated, cultured and open-minded. The film opens with a long drawn out shot of the scene of their street, and not until the film goes on to fast forward do you realise that they are watching their own house in the comfort of their own living room. Someone has been filming their lives, and they don’t know who or why.
As the story unravels Georges is forced to think about his childhood in provincial France, and about the effects of an incident with another child which he managed to successfully block out of his adult life. He grew up during the Algerian war of independence and many people came to France to escape the chaos having fought for France earlier in the century, only to find they were never really going to be accepted as true Frenchmen. Though the film focuses on this theme, for me the exploration of childhood guilt is even more powerful. Should your life be ruined by guilt about something you did as a child? Georges needs to find out.
Stunning performances by Auteil and Binoche, and Haneke’s use of film, playback and video is inspirational direction.