Where do you start? Or, perhaps more importantly, where do you end? Let’s get the obvious things out of way. The plot revolves around a TV presenter (Daniel Autueil) and his wife ( Juliette Binoche ) who are being sent VHS tapes (wrapped in alarming child-like drawings) of themselves being watched and their subsequent quest to find out who is doing it.
Also worth very quickly stating that while the Blu-Ray print is decent enough, this is not a film that is in any way enhanced by watching in Blu-Ray. This is lo-fi French cinema. There are a few shots that look quite sparkly but, on the whole, you’ll lose nothing from watching this on DVD.
So, it seems to be quite a straightforward thriller plot. And, for the most part, it is. But you would be wrong to get drawn into the film on that basis alone. Fans of Michael Bay should stay well away. The pace is very slow, quite deliberately so. It’s very stripped down and bleak. You get drawn in to the languid style so when the shocking moments come you really do get a shock and remain a little wary thereafter. And I did get a shock, I actually threw my hands up over my face like a Victorian woman on seeing a man’s ankle.
*** Caution : slight risk of spoiler from here ***
What will make this film linger in the mind is the one thing that is the most irksome as you watch. We are used to a shape of cinema with a nicely defined beginning, middle and end. At the end of Taggart, we always know who did the murrrdurrr(sic) and we have fun trying to guess which of the low-grade Scottish actors it was. We are used to neat resolution. Even the most challenging and convoluted of Hollywood movies like The Usual Suspects does it’s best to explain to the audience what has been going on so you can leave the cinema thinking “ooh, that was clever”. Hidden doesn’t do that. It makes no allowances for our stupidity. You don’t get a resolution. You are left with clues and the desire to work the rest out for yourself. There is even evidence online that many people missed the big clue at the very end of the film completely.
What is revealed is that the film isn’t about the central plot at all, it is about how the characters react to the plot. It’s not that the plot dooesn’t matter but it is simply the bones on which the messages of the film are hung. So, it’s a good job that the acting performances are great. Autueil seems to do well at the guilt and retribution thing (albeit with nothing as colourful as carnations on show here).
Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did it annoy me? Yes. Was I more interested in the plot afterwards because of the lack of discrete ending. Most definitely. And I’m not the only one. A very quick trawl of the interweb found many discussions on what exactly was going on.
If you don’t get irritated by the style and pace of French (or, more accurately in this case, German ) cinema and you don’t mind being left with a challenge at the end, then I would definitely recommened this film. Although I’m almost certain that many people will get to the end with a simple “Eh? That was shite.” type reaction.