Director: Michael Haneke.
Starring: Daniel Auteuil (Georges Laurent), Juliette Binoche (Anne Laurent), Maurice Bénichou (Majid), Annie Girardot (Georges's Mom), Bernard Le Coq (Georges's Editor-In-Chief), Walid Afkir (Majid's Son), Lester Makedonsky (Pierrot Laurent), Daniel Duval (Pierre), Nathalie Richard (Mathilde), Denis PodalydPs (Yvon), AVssa MaVga (Chantal), Caroline Baehr (Nurse), Christian Benedetti (Georges's Father), Philippe Besson (TV Guest), Loic Brabant (Police Officer No. 2).
repressed memories of the aftermath of the Algerian War
Paris, France. Georges Laurent and Anne Laurent are a married couple. Their teenage son in named Pierrot. The couple are a bit worried over a VHS tape of the front of their house. They can see themselves going out of the house, but what does this mean? Are they under surveillance, or is this a prank, or does somebody have a grudge against them? They go outside to look around for a possible camera on the Rue de Iris. They find no trace of a camera.
They return to their apartment. The tape runs for over two hours. They stop to eat dinner. The tape was in a supermarket bag with no note. A little while after they start eating, Pierrot comes home. Dad asks him where he was, and Pierrot says he was at the house of his friend Yves. Mom tells dad that maybe it could have been one of his fans of his books.
There's a tape taken during the night.
Georges has a television program of a book round table.
Another tape has arrived, but this one is wrapped in a white piece of paper. On the paper is a crudely drawn face in black crayon of a boy's face. There is a bright shock of red as if the person is coughing up blood. The couple looks at the tape of yesterday night. Anne asks Georges if maybe they should call the police. Georges doesn't want to report the matter yet. He wonders if he should ask their son about the tape? They both agree that that won't help any.
Anne gets a phone call of someone asking for Georges Laurent. She asks him who is he and what's this about, but the person just repeats what he already said. Anne gets upset and hangs up the phone.
At work Georges gets a call from his wife. He dials the phone to talk to her and he notices something familiar in his mail. Georges gets a postcard with a stick figure drawing of the man with the juvenile face spitting up bright red blood. No one at work knows anything about the postcard.
Anne and Georges go to the police station and report the tapes and drawings. The police were of no help. Georges says: "Until he torches the house or sends us bombs instead of tapes everything's dandy.
Pierrot's school is out for the day and students are all over the large area of stairs. Pierrot sees his father waiting for him in the car. He walks down the steps and gets in the car. He asks dad why's he picking him up from school? Dad says he was off so he thought his son might appreciate a lift. Satisfied with the answer, Pierrot asks his father why did he send him that silly card? He digs in his backpack and pulls out the by now very familiar stick drawing. Dad says he didn't send him that card.
For the second time, a coughing boy with blood on his face is shown. Is this a living boy or is this part of a nightmare?
Georges and Anne have two couples over for dinner. In the middle of dinner, the doorbell rings. Georges goes down to see who it is. Georges doesn't find anyone at the door or on the street. He shouts out loud for the person or persons to show themselves. He goes to close his door and finds a tape wrapped in a piece of paper. This time there is a drawing of a rooster with it's head just cut off or almost cut off. Again the blood is very bright red. Georges puts it in his jacket pocket and returns to the dinner. Anne wants to know why Georges was gone so long if there was no one at the door? Georges doesn't answer her. So, Anne tells everyone about the strange happenings lately that some unknown person is bothering them with. Georges is very bothered by Anne's telling their friends about what's been going on. Anne says it might be a stalker.
Georges gets up from the table and gets the tape and the primitive drawing. He comes back and sticks the tape in the VHS player. But this tape is different. It's a tape taken through a car window of Georges' childhood neighborhood and then shots of Georges' childhood home where his mother still lives.
The next day Georges goes to see his mother. The mother is a bit bewildered why Georges has come to pay her a visit. She thinks there must be something wrong. But Georges hides what's bothering him from his mother. He does say he has been having dreams about Majid. Mother doesn't remember Majid. Georges says that Majid was Hashem's son, the kid that mother planned to adopt. He asks mom if she ever thinks of Majid? She says that was a long time ago and it's not a happy memory. Mom changes the subject. Georges admits that the family members don't see each other very much. They are all so busy. They muddle along. Mother says there's something wrong, but her son is just not willing to tell her what it is.
Georges stays overnight at his childhood home. Georges speaks with his wife on the phone. They are both going to be very busy tomorrow. Anne tells him to pick up their son from school tomorrow.
Flashback. Majid tries to cut the head off a rooster, but he makes a mess of it. The blood spurts onto his face and left eye. Meanwhile the rooster is running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. It's a disturbing sight. Georges is a small boy and is frightened by what is happening. Majid with the hatchet in his hands looks over at Georges and starts walking towards Georges. Georges looks very scared and is almost all the way against the farthest wall from Majid. Majid gets very close to the small boy and raises the hatchet over his head to bring it down on the boy.
Back to the present. Georges wakes up from the nightmare, still scared. He breathes very heavily. He gets dressed and says goodbye to his mother.
The next tape Georges and Anne receives is taken from a car again, but the car goes to a particular apartment building on Avenue Lenin and someone goes down a hall to room 047. Georges says he will go visit the apartment 047. Anne wants to send the police there instead, but Georges says no.
And now Georges makes a big mistake. He tells his wife that he does have a hunch on who this person might be. Anne, of course, wants to know all about this hunch, but Georges won't tell her. Again, he is hiding something from her. And, boy, does Anne get mad. She rakes him over the coals about keeping things from her and him not trusting her at all. She rightfully believes that she has a right to know what this hunch thing is. Georges won't tell her. She has to leave the room, she's so exhausted with Georges.
Georges goes to see who's in room 047. He rings the bell. A man, a French Algerian, opens the door. It takes him a few seconds, but the man definitely recognizes Georges. The man invites Georges into his apartment. Georges commits another mistake. He just starts accusing the man of sending him the tapes, the drawings and calling his wife on the phone. He demands to know what the man wants from him? Is it money? No, he doesn't want any money. The man asks Georges how did Georges find him? Georges ignores the question and demands to know if this is some kind of a game? No. The man now asks if Georges would mind telling him why he came here? Georges grabs a drawing of a face throwing up blood and shows it to the man, but the man looks genuinely bewildered by what this means. The man says he never expected to see Georges again in his lifetime. Georges asks who's been terrorizing his family if not this man? The man asks Georges why does he pretend that he doesn't know him? Georges is hiding something again and refuses to answer any of the man's questions.
The Algerian tells Georges that he hasn't changed a bit from his childhood. Georges just keeps saying that the man is the one sending him the tapes. He asks the Algerian if he wants revenge? No. In fact, the man has fond memories of Georges' mother -- a very kind lady. He is grateful to her, and to Georges' father. Georges never gives the fellow a chance, never wants to think about his past. And now Georges just threatens the man if he sends Georges any more tapes. The man says he believes what Georges is saying, but Georges doesn't believe anything he, the Algerian, is saying. He goes on to say he doesn't want anything from Georges and he never sent him a tape nor anything else. Georges walks out as the man says he's glad that Georges came to see him.
And now Georges telephones his wife and lies to her that no one was at home at apartment 047. He lies and says he did talk to the superintendent, who told him the apartment was empty.
Georges is caught in a lie because he gets a tape of the interaction with the man in 047. The tapes shows the after Georges left, the man started crying. Georges apologizes to his wife for lying to her. But Georges is not sincere and still keeps things hidden from his wife and she knows it. She says she can't understand his attitude. So now Georges has to tell his wife something. As a boy, the Algerian Majid and his father worked for Georges' father. His father thought they were good workers and, therefore, took a liking to them. The French war with Algeria was going on at the time. "In October '61, the FLN called all Algerians to a demonstration in Paris. . . . Papon. The police massacre. They drowned about 200 Arabs in the Seine, including Majid's parents most likely. They never came back. Dad went to Paris to look for them. They said he should be glad to be rid of a couple of jigaboos. . . . My parents decided to adopt the boy. I don't know why. They felt responsible in some way. It annoyed me. I didn't want him at home. He had his own room. I had to share, see. I was six! . . . I told lies about him." And now apparently Majid wants revenge on him.
Anne tells Georges that she doesn't think Majid was lying. The man was genuinely surprised. And now Anne wants to know what kinds of lies did Georges tell about Majid? Georges says it was little lies, the kind that children tell about others. Anne makes a very good point now. If the lies weren't serious ones, then why would Majid want revenge on Georges after so many years? Georges lies and hides again saying he doesn't remember. Anne doesn't believe him. She wants to know what happened to Majid.
Majid was sent away. He got sick. He may have gone to a children's home. And Georges was glad Majid was gone. And then he forgot all about Majid. (Another lie.) He says he's not responsible for what happened. (Another lie.) Anne says that her husband talked to his mother, and she's glad that at least Georges has someone to confide in -- his mother. By the way, what did mother say? Nothing. (Another lie.) Anne is disgusted with Georges.
Georges' boss for the public broadcasting network on his book round table calls Georges into his office. His secretary brought him an anonymous tape. He watched it and it was of Georges talking to another man. It was clearly taken by a hidden camera. He didn't pay attention to the dialogue. Anyway, he just wanted to make Georges aware of it. He says he thinks someone's trying to get Georges fired. Georges just blames it on Majid saying he has a grudge against his family. Georges says he'll put a lawyer on the case so there's no leak to others.
Georges goes back to apartment 047. Nobody is at home.
At a public restaurant, family friend Pierre consoles Anne over her troubles with her husband. He holds her hand. Anne starts crying. He puts her head on his left shoulder and tells her to calm down. He kisses her left wrist.
Anne comes home late. Georges asks her where has she been? She says she ate out with Pierre. Georges says: "Without telling me?" She says her husband doesn't tell her what he does all the time. And now it dawns on them that neither one of them picked up their son from school. So mom starts calling around asking people if they have seen Pierrot? They have no luck contacting their son.
The parents now go to the police to report a missing person. With the police, Georges returns to apartment 047. The door opens and there is Majid's son bewildered by the sight of the police. No, he doesn't have Georges' son. Majid and his son are takento the police station along with Georges.
Georges returns home. Anne asks him about the father and son. Georges said that both of the men got a bit riled up and got thrown into jail by the police for the night. Tomorrow, they will let the pair out of jail. Georges goes to get something to eat, because he didn't eat anything all day. He starts sobbing in the kitchen.
In the morning a woman brings Pierrot back home in her car. Anne thanks the woman for bringing her son back to her. The strager says she works the night shift at the hospital and she didn't get home until 7 a.m. Her son had Pierrot over for the night. After the other woman leaves, Anne goes to talk with her son. The problem is that Pierrot won't talk to his mother. He is really angry. Someone must have told him something bad about his mother. It seems that Pierrot thinks that his mother is having an affair with family friend Pierre. Mother tells her son that it's just not true. She's not having an affair. Pierre is just a friend. [Did someone tape Anne and Pierre at the public restaurant when Pierre tried to console her about her husband? Did someone show the tape to Pierrot? And, is this why Pierrot can't believe his mother because he saw them with his own eyes on the incriminating tape?]
Pierrot runs out of the house. Mom and dad pick their son up from his swimming class. He is still not cooperating.
At work Georges gets a telephone call from Majid. He goes over to apartment 407. He goes inside and starts yelling at Majid again. Majid says: "I truly had no idea about the tapes." He then tells Georges: "I called you because I wanted you to be present." He takes a straight razor out of his pant's pocket and opens the blade. He then cuts his own throat and falls to the ground, There is a lot of blood on the chair and the wall by the kitchen and then lots of blood on the kitchen floor. Georges is truly stunned. He just looks at Majid. He walks away from the body.
Georges goes to the movies. It's dark when he returns home. His wife has some guests in the house. He calls her on his cell phone to get the guests out of the house. He says something terrible has happened.
Instead of sending everyone home, Anne comes into the bedroom where he husband sits on the bed. He tells her that Majid committed suicide. He slit his throat and Georges was right there. Again Georges partly lies to his wife, leaving out the part pf Majid's words: "I truly had no idea about the tapes." Again he tells her to get rid of their guests. She gets rid of them. Then she comes back and asks Georges a lot of questions about the suicide. Georges believes that Majid was staging a murder scene with Georges as the killer. Anne asks Georges what did he do to Majid?
Georges told his mother that the boy Majid coughed up blood. Then he told Majid that his father wanted the rooster killed, so Majid killed the rooster. The Algerian was covered in blood.
Georges goes to work. There waiting for him is Majid's son, and he insists that he must talk with Georges. Georges says he doesn't have time to speak to him. The fellow follows Georges. Georges tells the son to stop terrorizing his family with the tapes. The son says that those tapes have nothing to do with him. Georges treats the son as badly as he did the son's father. He never listens, but is always on the attack. He says that the boy is responsible for the tapes and he threatens to destroy him if the tapes don't stop. The young man says that Georges is really good at threatening people. The son says that he was just wondering how it feels to have a man's life on his conscience. He adds that he knows what it feels like. The young man now lets Georges go.
Gorges goes home. He takes some pills and goes to bed.
Gorges and Anne go to pick up their son from grandmother's house. The son comes out of the house, but then he starts running away from his parents. They catch the boy, but he keeps screaming and tries to get away from his parents. They have to drag the boy to the car and force him into the back seat. Gorges sits in the seat besides his father. Anne comes to seat in the back with Pierrot and Georges does the driving.
At Pierriot's school, Majid's son comes up the steps to talk with Pierrot. The dialogue is not heard, but the boys talk for quite a while. The talks seems normal, as if the boys were friends. They walk down the school steps and talk some more in private. After awhile, Majid's son leaves and Pierrot goes back upstairs to talk some more with his friends.
Spoiler Warning: The author/director of the film gave an insightful interpretation of his movie. He says he was very upset about the Paris Massacre of 1961 where perhaps as many as 300 French Algerians were deliberately killed by the Paris police. Around 200 of the bodies were thrown into the River Seine. The playwright couldn't believe that such a thing could happen in modern Paris, but it did happen. No one was ever really punished for the massacre and Haneke started thinking about how can unpunished murderers deal with the guilt of their crimes? He thinks that many of the murderers hide their feelings from both others and themselves. They try to just forget what happened, but Haneke says it's very hard to squelch feelings of guilt without having to pay a price for this in terms of psychological/psychiatric problems.
So Haneke writes a film script about one man (Georges) who has almost all his life repressed the guilt for what he did to an Algerian boy, who was to be adopted by Georges' parents. Majid's parents were killed in the Paris Massacre of 1961. Georges is a spoiled, single child an dhe doesn't want this Algerian boy around him. So he starts telling vicious lies about the Algerian. The lies are so vicious and told so well that mom falls for them. So she decides not to adopt Majid for the sake of the safety of her own boy. Majid winds up in a terrible situation and has a very tough life in a children's asylum or some other institution.
Someone starts filming tape on Georges and his wife. This starts really worrying the couple and they soon are spending a lot of energy trying to find out who's trying to terrorize them. Then the couple starts getting upsetting cartoon drawings: one of a boy coughing up lots of deep red blood and one of a rooster with it's head cut off with lots of deep red blood again.
So now the remembrance of the guilt starts returning to Georges. Those cartoons deal with lies told by Georges about Majid to Georges' mother. But since Georges has represses his early sins, he cannot function normally now with his family. He just keeps on lying to his family and the family starts breaking up under the strain of all the lies.
You never learn who was sending the tapes and the drawings. Haneke is not really concerned about who done it. He's interested in showing a man who did something terrible in his youth, repressed it, but never completely, and his world starts to fall apart when the memories of his sins are brought out to him by someone who knows about Georges' bad deeds.
Haneke admits that any viewer could suggest the name of the tape sender, and every suggestion might be true, because the movie doesn't present enough evidence to really finger one or more persons. I certainly don't know who the culprit is in the story. Anyways, I'll tell you who I though it was. It was a combination of Majid's son and Georges' son. At the end of the movie, the two boys meet and talk together like old chums. Now that is very suspicious. Majid probably knew all about how terribly crushed his father was by being kicked out of paradise by a jealous little French boy. Going to school with Georges' son, Majid learns who he is and tells Georges' son how terribly his father treated his Algerian father. Perhaps to make it up to Majid's son, the other son, Pierrot, starts filming his family's front door entrance. Then later he could have drawn the lies of his father that got Majid into a terrible situation as bloody cartoons.
I recommend the movie, even if no one really knows who's the culprit.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1939-1945 -- WWII.
1940-1942 -- the French Vichy government was in nominal control of southern France, while the Germans occupied northern France.
1942 (March 27) -- beginning of deportation of the Jews to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Deportations continued until after August 1944. Total of those deported: 73,853. Maurice Papon, as secretary general for police in Bordeaux, participated in the deportation of more than 1600 Jews to concentration camps.
1942 (November 11) -- southern France is occupied by the Axis and the Vichy government is reduced to a puppet government.
1954-1962 -- Papon tortured insurgnt prisoners as prefect of the Constantinois department during the Algerian War.
1958 -- Papon becomes the chief of the Paris police.
1961 (October 17) -- Papon ordered the severe repression of a peaceful pro-National Liberation Front (FLN) demonstration against a curfew, which he had imposed, and which became known as the Paris Massacre of 1961. The massacre left between one hundred and three hundred dead at the hands of the police, with many more wounded. Many bodies were thrown into the Seine River.
1967 -- he isforced to resign after the suspicious disappearance of the Moroccan dissident Mehdi Ben Barka, leader of the Tricontinental Conference.
1968 -- Papon is elected as a representative in the French legislature, and served several terms.
1978-81 -- he served as the appointed Minister of the Budget under prime minister Raymond Barre and president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
1998 -- he is convicted of crimes against humanity and went to prison.
2002 -- Papon is released from prison because of ill health.
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