A TV book show host (Auteuil) seems to have the perfect marriage. But cracks appear when he decides to act alone after he and his publisher wife (Binoche) begin receiving videotapes from a stalker who seems to know a great deal about their lives...
Nothing is ever as it seems in a Michael Haneke film. So disquiet sets in immediately when we’re presented with a lingering, static shot of the house in which complacent bourgeois Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche are raising their tweenage son. Sure enough, the image proves to be a surveillance tape, designed to alert Auteuil that the price for his idyllic existence is about to be exacted.
By creating sufficient suspicion of the culprit in Auteuil’s mind, the film forces us to confront our own attitudes to the post-colonial world and the extent to which we are culpable for the actions of our governments. Yet this slow-burning study in forgotten guilt and suppressed prejudice also works as an intriguing thriller that keeps us as much in the dark as the increasingly apprehensive Binoche, whose dismay at Auteuil’s revelations contrasts with the trusting sympathy of his bed-ridden mother, Annie Girardot.
Although slightly underemployed, Binoche produces a sensitive display of bemusement and betrayed trust. But Auteuil’s affronted arrogance and latent malevolence are even more impressive, confirming his sheer cinematic class.
Whether viewed as a political allegory or a domestic drama, this is the most accessible film yet from one of Europes very finest filmmakers.