Code Unknown

Code Unknown


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Teenager Jean has been waiting outside Anne's apartment for ages. Unhappy with living with his father, he wants to stay at Anne's, but she tells him there won't be room once her boyfriend, Jean's older brother Georges, returns from Kosovo. In a huff, Jean throws rubbish into the lap of a beggar, Maria. A young black man, Amadou, tries to get Jean to apologise. He won't. The police get involved. Amadou is arrested, precipitating yet another crisis in his home, while Maria - an illegal immigrant - is deported...

Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke is well known for challenging audiences. In Funny Games he confronted our desire for violent spectacle, subverting the well-known codes of the horror movie to devastating effect. His new film, Code Unknown, confronts our demands for cause and effect plotting and narrative resolution.

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As usual, Haneke never lets us forget the artifice of what we are watching. Scenes are begun long before and extended long after any significant plot point (if any) has been made. Conventional techniques of shot/countershot are eschewed in favour of long one-take scenes. Binoche plays an actress, displaying her chops doing Shakespeare, The Collector, and - in one painfully overextended scene - the ironing.

So far, all very laudable. The problem is that Code Unknown doesn't reward the viewer sufficiently. Too self-consciously obtuse, enigmatic and "meaningful" for its own good, it demands far more than it gives back in return.

Oh, and aren't racist cops a touch predictable? Very lazy of you Michael.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Self-consciously obtuse drama.
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Director: Michael Haneke

Writer: Michael Haneke

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Luminata Gheorghui, Ona Lu Yenke, Helene Diarra

Year: 2000

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


EIFF 2000
Karlovy 2013

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