Code Unknown02 Feb 2016
Michael Haneke’s Code Unkown, a title worth remembering while watching the film, is comprised of about 50 loosely connected, but largely unconnected scenes. Each can be described as a long take, with either kinetic movement or terse dialog (rarely combined), each framed with furniture, doorways, street signs, stores or a person framing the view. The acting, especially Juliette Binoche (who is living up to the claim of best living actress in the world in every film I see of hers), at once grounds the film and elevates it. The film is like a collection of short stories, with some tying themes, but more a depiction of a world view.
In this case, the world view we get from Haneke could be something like this: we interact with each other imperfectly, always unable to truly connect because we’re missing the right words, the right understanding, the exact behavior, the exact code to make the right connection. As a result, our world is full of small and large frictions. We fight with the ones we love (in a grocery store, perhaps). We cry for our children who face a harsh world. We are unable to help the neediest among us (disgusted by a beggar on the street, rather than at the conditions that got her there). We avoid eye-contact and look the other way as someone gets harassed on the subway. These are the frictions Haneke is interested in, and the missing codes he captures so well in this film. Each scene and relationship is pegged around an imperfect understanding of a code: a code to get into a building, a phone code, a code of conduct, a code of honor, a code by which we can conduct society.