Code Unknown

Code Unknown by Michael Haneke

I am starting to feel very grateful for Haneke. It’s a shame nobody ever mentions him. I place him up there with Kar-Wai, Medem, Korine, and Green in the list of filmmakers currently altering our lives.

But all of the aforementionned weave an inhenrently cinematic stylistic in their work. Kar-Wai’s aesthetic and technical choices ubiquitously work to intensifiy our romantic intuitions, Korine synthesizes extremely unfamiliar perspectives of life to then act as reporter, Gordon Green gives us fills of what is never seen or said and in doing so blurs the line between what is our reality and what is our imagination. But here we have Haneke, who understands the power at hand, and instead decides to weave something with much less pervasion.

So he sets this film close to our own world to make it seem less ambitious. He then carefully crafts situations where his characters must respond to unfamiliar and unsettling circumstances. He later plays with this logic by plasticizing it, directly, or sometimes indirectly by showing us a film-within. The intensity of this stylistic seems much less far-reaching because it is abstracted at two levels: the acting, already something inherently elusive, and the abstract existential theme behind the situations.

In order to support this structure, we have the multi-narrative trick where the threads overlap with each other, and some of the concerned characters get to share the same space. It works well enough towards its thematic effect, however, it may have been setup strictly so that Haneke could go nuts on the steadicam. And nuts, he goes. The long tracking shots give us an annotation of our reality (some of them last up to 8 minutes), a layer that seems to be there to purposely disturb. It reaches deep if you understand the uncertainties at hand, the existentialities, dare I say.

This is unsettling not because it shocks, but because such drama exists within us, and we’ve never seen it unfold so seamlessly on a screen.

This is the best you can get cinematically out of the idea of ‘filmed theater’. It puts Bergman to shame, and makes us recognize Cassavetes’ sweet cinematic innocence.

See this at all costs. Wherever Haneke is going, I suggest you keep an eye out. The story goes that Binoche wrote to him to get this film done. He couldn’t refuse. But he is a humble man. That’s why she plays an actress here.

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Categories: Notes

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