Speak the lingo?

I’ve just finished watching Cache and it struck me during the film that I’m actually quite embarrassed by the fact that at 27 years old I can’t watch any foreign films without subtitles (excusing the most basic of horror films). I’ve worked with a handful of people from other countries who can not only watch films in English they can converse fluently enough to cope with drunk Scots.

Which language should I choose to study though? If it’s in order to watch films it’d have to be Italian. Being a native speaker of English there doesn’t seem to be another language that leaps out as being useful for work or anything like that. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way but it certainly seems that a lot of other countries teach English as a matter of course.

So, how was the film? Well, it was excellent up until the closing credits rolled. I was loving the high emotional content, the complete lack of soundtrack signposting my feelings and the truly excellent acting all round. Until it ended with no explanation at all. A quick check of imdb gives this explanation –

This question is not answered and is open for interpretation. Michael Haneke said in several interviews, that he likes films which confuse him in some way (he named for example Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, but also the films of Robert Bresson and Andrei Tarkovsky in this context). Michael Haneke therefore deliberately “confuses” the audience by not resolving the story. He also pointed out that even though both Majid and his son denied any involvement in the tapes, they still could be lying. In Haneke’s point of view, in the “real world” questions are not answered all the time. He is also known to be a critic of “mainstream cinema”, especially the way it treats violence and that it almost always has simple and (arguably) superficial solutions to complex problems. It could also be argued that the audience are the stalkers (or, for that matter, the filmmakers), for we have been viewing and “spying on” their story for the duration of the film.

That just reads like ultimate cop-out to me. It must as well say “they were all in a virtual reality prison and then they woke up” (sic. Matrix movies). The final sentence annoys me most of all, though I should note that it appears to be conjecture rather than anything inspired by a comment from the director.

There are many, many films which seek to say something about the voyeurism of cinema but I have never come across one that does it so well as Cannibal Holocaust. That film demands that the viewer take some responsibility for the on-screen action as it is presented as found footage of what we know is a disastrous journey. We, the audience, can look away at any point and not allow the deaths of the protagonists (antagonists?) to become more than what they are. We watch as the fictional characters spell out the manipulation of their audience and then observe ourselves being manipulated in the same way.

The film asks us to be shocked by the fates of the characters and slots in genuine execution footage in such a way that it’s almost blase. We are disgusted by the killing of animals and then comforted in the next sequence as we observe people sitting around a fire, doing what comes naturally; eating.

If this is the idea behind Cache then I think it’s failed. Although we’re placed within the scene a couple of times, there’s never any explanation of why we are there. The initial idea of hidden cameras is largely discarded by about halfway through the film with the exception of a handful of sequences which could be said to be from the viewpoint of an external, but present, third party.

While the notion that real world questions are not always answered is perfectly correct, I felt more that the writer decided to unburden himself of the pressures of coherency and instead opted to leave it up to the viewer to fill in the blanks in order to join their own dots together.