Don't bother getting comfortable when you sit down for Michael Haneke's Hidden (Cache). Soon as this quietly terrifying film starts, the unease starts to fester. The premise is fiendishly simple: Parisian couple Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) start receiving videotapes of their home from an anonymous stalker. But there are many layers to this mystery, some of them tied directly to France's colonial past. Part paranoid thriller, part political allegory, Hidden's a terrific return to form for Haneke.
His last film, Time Of The Wolf, was imposingly grim but didn't grip. This one never lets go. Who's sending the increasingly personal tapes (there are drawings, too), and why? Could it be an obsessive fan of the TV books show Georges hosts? Or is it, as Georges becomes convinced, something to do with his childhood ill-treatment of an Algerian boy?
"AN EXHILARATING ORDEAL"
Without bashing viewers over the head, Haneke raises questions of guilt, responsibility and complacency that have global implications. Yet he never gets distracted from the business of building suspense, keeping things so taut you worry the film'll snap in the projector, taking your nerves with it. Finessing the merciless technique of Funny Games and The Piano Teacher, Haneke subjects us to an exhilarating ordeal of long takes, no music, and in the second half (that's all the warning we'll give) one almighty moment of shock. But he doesn't play by traditional thriller rules, leaving audiences to work out whodunnit from a clue discreetly buried in the final shot. Even if you don't spot it, you'll come away satisfied. And possibly shaking.