Hidden Review

The Film

I am the kind of person who loves a film that points out how shabby I am. I rationalise this masochism on the grounds that what I choose to look at isn't always pretty or clever, or even honest, and that I don't deserve praise for watching it. I further explain to people that a movie that takes issue with my person or motives is, at best, like a challenging friend, or perhaps, at worst, a devil's advocate, and that we can all do with a bit of improvement. Looking at it from another angle, the truth is that films would be very dull if they only ever pacified our concerns or boosted our egos. If that was all we expected from cinema, we would become stupefied idiots oblivious to our faults and failings.
Michael Haneke's Hidden is about more things than pointing out my moral shabbiness. It is also about something other than the life of its bourgeois protagonists. It isn't just about their comfort, or the peril they feel themselves to be at. It is about whether we choose to obscure the sins of the past and present in order to convince ourselves of our faultlessness and to protect what we have gained from our misdeed. Hidden deliberately overturns thriller conventions and fails to offer easy culprits, and it suggests that whatever the viewer would like to see, they choose what to believe and acknowledge from the evidence of their eyes.

Those with knowledge of the director will easily solve the mystery of this fearful family whose whole live is under surveillance. Many will see that beneath wealth lies poverty, and, if you flip the peaceful universe we enjoy, you will see the defeated, cheated and exploited paying for it. This message is an age old Marxist cry, that wealth and security is built upon the subjugation of others, and that, in order to maintain itself, status must keep perceived threats, like the unvarnished truth, in their place.

Many will watch a film where the rich white world protects itself from a poor Arab one, and see parallels to the war on terror. The Arab characters' imprisonment purely due to suspicion and the misery they are subjected to because of paranoia run wild, these elements may bring to mind those wrongly held at Guantanamo Bay or obliterated on a tube train for being "dusky". Many will guess that the war on TV, that the couple pay little heed to, is another reminder of what efforts are needed to secure the seeming luxury and balance of their wealthy lives.
Other reviewers have said that too many will see all these points, and that the didactic nature of this film comes over as lecturing. Some have asked whether Haneke hasn't turned the camera back on the viewer one too many times - don't we all know that we should feel guilty for the evil in the world? Please Michael, haven't we suffered enough!

I don't want readers to imagine that I don't see the irony of a film that enjoins viewers to open their eyes from a director who believes that film and TV should be far more censorious about what it shows. The steadfast affected objectivity is something of a device, and it can't hide the fact that Haneke is telling us all off. For all its distance, Hidden is a polemic and a rather deterministic one, but the world it portrays in microcosm is very much still around. You can see evidence of Oedipal blindness in the carefully chosen news on US media networks that avoid the sight of soldier's coffins returning home. You can see the unfair treatment of Arab people who find themselves incarcerated and kidnapped because of suspicion, and you can judge the visual divide in a war between a super power that justifies its excesses by suppressing sight of them, and a disparate enemy that often tries to rape the senses by the visual overload of its actions.

For Hidden is about how being seen undermines our sense of security and unearths our guilt. It is about our anxiety that the idea expressed in the Koran and the Bible that "all that's bound shall be loosed, and all that's loosed shall be bound" will come true. The fear of reckoning for previous sins which built the comfort that we now enjoy, and the fear that our fortified lives are under threat by those who may have a just cause as well as a belligerent grievance. We fear revelation and we fear that others may feel entitled to take our lives, our wealth, and our illusion of safety.
Our anxiety and our loss of invulnerability lead to our failure to face how we have kept others in misery to benefit ourselves - this is the crux of Hidden and our world post 9-11. With war outside according to our fabulous TVs, we cling to the ability to switch the danger off and wait for things to return to normal. Routine and ritual help to sustain the superficial, but we know that someone somewhere no longer wants us to hide the things that we don't want to see.

And here I am lecturing you, which you may find rather presumptuous, but as I said at the beginning I am the kind of person who loves a film that points out how shabby I am. I can tell you that Hidden has got my number, and revisiting it makes me far less likely to keep forgetting and being blind to myself. For its power and its prophecy, Hidden is a masterpiece - a subverted thriller, a distanced morality play and an unflattering reflection forced on those watching it.

Transfer and Sound

The AVC/MPEG-4 transfer is stunning with a depth of image which adds to the film's unflattering introspection. The amount of detail is as great as I have seen and this works well in etching the lines on the character's faces as well as showing the depth of shot off really strongly. The management of black levels is superb and colours are terrific with the natural skin tones a real strength. Edges are very natural looking and the overall image has a clarity and definition as good as any transfer I have seen.
The sound comes in a standard def 5.1 and a DTS master audio track. This is the kind of experience that benefits from greater richness of ambient sound as this roots the performance more strongly in reality, and this lossless track succeeds in spades in this respect. The sense of place created via the sub-woofer and the surround channels really helps the film to pack its political punch. The English subtitles are excellent, optional and very easily read.

Discs and Special Features

This is a single layer region free disc and 18.4 GB of its 21.3GB is devoted to the main feature. The extras are the same ones that exist on the standard definition release and are included here with subtitles and in MPEG 2 and stereo. The Making of documentary is windowboxed and whilst it opens in the usual mutual masturbation - stars say director marvellous, directors says stars marvellous - it includes a fabulous tantrum in German from Haneke and post wobbly discussion about his "perfectionism"! Haneke's interview sees him much more engaged and acknowledging that "guilt is not a simple thing" as well as discussing the unspoken massacre of Algerians in the Seine in 1961.

The filmographies show as windows over the playing menu and are simple lists of the films completed by the three major players


It's a real pleasure to see Hidden get such an excellent transfer and I strongly advise fellow guilty blu-ray owners to get their fix.

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