On a busy Parisian street, Anne (Juliette Binoche), an actress on the brink of success, bumps into Jean (Alexandre Hamidi), the younger brother of her non-committal war photographer partner Georges (Neuvic). After disclosing that he has run away from his father¹s farm, Jean insults Maria (Luminita Gheorghiu), a Romanian illegal immigrant by dropping his rubbish into her lap as she begs. The incident, which leads to Maria's deportation, is spotted by Amadou (Yenke), a teacher of deaf children who angrily remonstrates with Jean. It is an incident which briefly links the lives of these five very different people.
Haneke's richly complex and intellectually rewarding film - his first French language feature - is a characteristically inquisitive and philosophical look at questions of communication, xenophobia, victimisation and the abject coldness of contemporary consumer society. Haneke being Haneke the film, much like both Benny's Video and Funny Games, also calls into question the illusive, deceptive nature of narrative cinema (and degrees of reality) and the collusive, voyeuristic position of the spectator; best demonstrated in a scene where Binoche pleads direct to camera for her life as she rehearses for a part.
Provocative, stimulating fare (both thematically and visually as Haneke presents us with various motifs of agit-prop cinema including exceedingly long takes, jarring fades and Godardian edits) it's also undeniably engrossing. Binoche - after a series of lesser parts - proves that she is one of the finest European actresses of her generation but she's more than matched by a faultless supporting cast, of which Lu Yenke is a revelation. European cinema at its very best.
"Code Unknown" is due for release on May 25th.