The Best Films of the Decade: #5 02/24/2010
The first decade of our young century has come to a close. During that time the world around us has changed rapidly, and cinema has changed with it. Mainstream filmmaking continues to go down a dark path, moving ever closer to an event-style industry with no perception of "art". Meanwhile the cinema is ennobled all over the world by artists who reject or beat the studio system. As strong as ever, if you look in the right places, the art form thrives. For the next 10 days, I'll be counting down the 10 greatest films of the decade...
Directed by Michael Haneke
No film from the last decade has been as permanently etched in the cinephile collective conscious as Michael Haneke's Caché. The unanswerable question of who sent the tapes has spawned an endless debate with no victors. Such is the genius of the film, to infiltrate the minds of those who see it. Michael Haneke would be the first to tell you that who sent the tapes is ultimately of little importance. The substance lies within the struggle of the protagonist Georges, a microcosm through which the guilt of the French bourgeois is explored.
The strength of the main character's family is put to the test and the sincerity of their bonds and trust is revealed to be feeble at best. Georges does his best to shake off the past, but to no avail. Whenever he sleeps, his dreams confront that which he is not willing to. While Haneke seems to condemn this man and that which he represents, we are presented with hope in the form of a promising potential future brought on by a generation whom see right through the facade of the lives of those who birthed them.
As one of the premiere auteurs of the last twenty years, Haneke never makes the mistake of limiting his scope. He does in Caché as he did most recently with another masterpiece, The White Ribbon, by honing in on a specific part of history and finding in it questions that apply everywhere. He seems intent on trying to get as much from our history as possible, determined to make his audience confront the mistakes of our past as well as our present in order to work toward a better future.
I've heard the McGuffin of the tape-sender cited as a critical flaw in the film. That Haneke is too in love with his premise that the emphasis is placed on a useless mystery and not the themes. Obviously by placing this film amongst the ten best of the decade, I disagree. The mystery accomplishes even more than its given credit for. The viewer becomes so caught up with the mystery, that it doesn't leave them alone. It haunts those who see it, and thus the film is always with them. The themes seep through, and the film follows you forever; just like the past that Georges can't ignore.