Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for brief but strong violence
Run Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Michael Haneke’s creepy cat-and-mouse tale kicks off with a voyeuristic twist and doesn’t let go until the final frame.
Television talk-show host Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) are living a cushy upper-middle-class life of comfort and security when a strange videotape appears on their doorstep. The tape clearly shows that they are being watched from across the street and documented by hidden cameras.
As more surveillance tapes arrive, followed by crude and violent drawings, the foundation of the couple’s tranquil existence begins to buckle. The police are of little or no help so George determines to launch an investigation of his own, shutting Anne out of his clandestine search.
Secrets from George’s past are revealed, broadening the gap of misunderstanding. George and Anne put on a casual front for friends and pre-teen son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) while teetering on the brink of psychological collapse.
Haneke manages to turn screws and perpetuate guilt in riveting Hitchcockian style, never losing sight of the fact that someone is watching. Emotional abuse butts up against bewildering admissions and a scene of shocking violence, ratcheting up the tension and further compounding an impending sense of doom.
Pay close attention to the final images for therein lies the secret of the narrative’s polished, shattering mystery.