Enthralling, especially for a film where close to nothing happens.

Released in 2005, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 20 Feb 2006 by Scott Morris
Hidden image

Oooh, I like a challenge. Almost nothing happens in Hidden (Cach? to its French chums), but as more observant readers will have picked up on, I quite like it. Seeing as I can't adequately explain to myself quite why I like it, this may prove challenging indeed. Let's start at the beginning then. The opening credits fade languidly over a shot of an unassuming apartment block taken from the other side of a quiet road. Nothing, barring the odd pedestrian strolling by, happens. This state of affairs continues for, ooh, four minutes or so before the focal point of the piece Georges (Daniel Auteuil) eventually leaves his building and strides into and out of the shot. In modern cinema terms, four minutes of an essentially static shot might as well be an eternity. It's nailing it's colours to the mast early on, and frankly it's almost daring you to walk out on it. If it starts to annoy you, and in all honesty I would not blame you, it might just be the best course of action as it hardly develops into a high octane thrill ride.

This shot turns out to be part of a videotape of stalking Georges receives along with a crudely scribbled drawing. His wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) poses the obvious questions, who would bother to take such an interest in the host of a literary discussion show, and what in the name of Bernard Cribbins do they want? It is this, along with the resultant strain that this puts on both their relationship and with their kiddywink Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky), that the rest of the film concerns itself, and at the risk of sounding like I'm glossing over the plot I'll have to leave it at that. Wouldn't want to spoil what little of it there is for you.

Hidden, it appears, isn't so much about a crisis as it is a character study about how the crisis affects the lead characters. Even when the plot does eventually thicken, in rather shocking fashion, it's not to effect a resolution so much as to give Georges a new aspect to bounce off. Frankly, by the time the closing credits are fading languidly past in the same fashion as their earlier bookend we're not really much the wiser as to those questions asked by Anne a few hours previously.

Hidden image

What you get in Hidden in place of car chases, food fights or, well, anything, is two superb lead performances. Daniel Auteuil gives a likable, charismatic and believable portrayal of a puzzled, worried man, and while Juliette Binoche's character is given to bouts of moaning a little more than is strictly advisable, she's equally convincing. The all too obvious strains on their relationship and the resultant arguments provide the hook to keep your attention in the absence of much else that's attention grabbing.

It's typically during the arguments that the camerawork becomes interesting as well, with director Michael Haneke often choosing to have us view these from the perspective of those having the argument. It's not a revelation in film-making, but it's unusual enough to be interesting and personal enough to draw us deeper into the character's plight, if you'll excuse the uncharacteristic branch into pretentiousness. Yes, I did say uncharacteristic. Well, it is. Don't look at me like that.

Hidden certainly isn't going to be everyone's cup of . If it gains any audience share outside of the usual art-house crowd I'll be hugely surprised, especially when the precise reasons for liking such a minimalist mood piece remain somewhat nebulous even after a few days though trying to figure it out. It manages to make a good fist of producing a decent level of tension throughout, and despite every logical bone in my body screaming out that this has to be a boring waste of time, it plainly isn't. If you've a stomach for somewhat leftfield, experimental stuff then Hidden is rather rewarding, in a somewhat unquantifiable sense. If you're more of a mind for something conventional avoid this like bird flu.

Oooh, I hate a challenge.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Michael Haneke
Cast list:
Daniel Auteuil (Georges)
Juliette Binoche (Anne)
Maurice B?nichou (Majid)
Lester Makedonsky (Pierrot)