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"Code Unknown" (2000)

Posted: 18 Apr 2024, 15:24
by GoogaMooga
***CODE UNKNOWN***

I haven't seen much Michael Haneke. If you have seen "Funny Games", that sort of says it all. He likes to shock, surprise, and turn the rules upside down. Not in a gratuitous way, but because he likes to challenge us, make us look at the world in a new light.

So it is with his film from 2000, "Code Unknown". There are two types of Haneke films - one where he employs conventional filmmaking to tell a story, and then the weird experiments like "Code Unknown".

I have seen well over 10,000 films in my life, but I have never seen anything like "Code Unknown". It is superweird. Conventional filmaking is about moving a story forward as clearly and effortlessly as possible. Rhythm, pacing, and narrative is paramount, and we accept it all unquestioningly, because we are so used to it.

Not so with "Code Unknown. There is no plot to speak of, and yet we are never bored. It's all in the editing and moreover, it is about what Haneke chooses to let us see, and he chooses to go for the unexpected.

It is a tapestry film. You know the deal, we follow several disparate characters in a given place and time, whose paths may cross and who may be interlocked by some overriding theme. In Haneke's film, the connection between the characters is tenuous at best.

This is because Haneke doesn't care about plot here, he doesn't really have a story to tell. But he has lots to show us, and it isn't always what we expect, in fact far from. He often shows peripheral stuff that normally would have been cut out, and he lets his long takes go on forever, and then suddenly cuts to black very abruptly. Here he is trying to free our minds from the constraints of conventional narrative. His focus is on all the extraneous details, and the result is entrancing rather than riveting.

If you are looking for excitement, you have come to the wrong place. But if you like to be startled and forced to rethink your view of the world, Haneke is the man for you.

"Code Unknown" is definitely worth a look, but it is not a film I need to see again. I get his point, I like what I see, but this is not the way forward for films. It is an experiment, an aberration, a way to test us. Some may have their patience tested, but I guarantee you, there is nothing like it elsewhere. It is totally new and original. Haneke reinvents film language here, even if it leads to nowhere.