Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Code inconnu: Recit incomplete de divers voyages (Code Unknown) is a film set in Paris where a minor incident in the city street play into lives of various characters who are all connected to this event. The film is a study of life in Paris as it is presented almost entirely in single-take vignettes as it focuses on various individuals in the city. Starring Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvick, Sepp Bierbichler, Alexandre Hamidi, Maimouna Helene Diarra, Ona Lu Yenke, Djibril Kouyate, Guessi Diakite-Goumdo, Luminita Gheoghiu, Crenguta Hariton Stoica, Bob Nicolescu, and Nathalie Richard. Code inconnu: Recit incomplete de divers voyages is a riveting yet discomforting film from Michael Haneke.
The film is essentially a series of vignettes based on characters who were involved in a scuffle that lead to the deportation of a Romanian immigrant, the arrest of a black man, and trouble for a young man along with those connected to those people deal with their lives as well as this growing sense of disconnect, miscommunication, lack of communication, and an ever-changing world before the turn of the Millennium. It is a film that doesn’t play by the rules as it opens and ends with deaf kids communicating with each other where the first scene has kids trying to answer what a young girl is trying to say through French sign language. The film’s screenplay is largely fragmented into vignettes as it play into various characters dealing with their lives as well as the aftermath of this small incident. Among them is the actress Anne Laurent (Juliette Binoche) who runs into her boyfriend’s son Jean (Alexandre Hamidi) who is going through some issues and walks back in anger as he unknowingly threw a piece of garbage at this homeless woman in Maria (Luminata Gheoghiu) as he is confronted by young Malian man in Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke) as the two get into a fight that is seen by many including Anne.
The fight would have Amadou endure shame and family issues forcing his father (Djibril Kouyate) to try and settle things while also his mother Aminate (Maimouna Helene Diarra) is convinced that her family is cursed. Maria would be deported back to Romania as she reconnects with her family but is puzzled by not just changes around her old home but also this desire to return to Paris unaware that there’s more trouble laying ahead. For Anne, her life with her photographer boyfriend Georges (Thierry Neuvic) becomes tumultuous due to his absences and not being there for Jean as he sent him to his father (Josef “Sepp” Bierbichler) who is an aging farmer that is having a hard time connecting with his grandson. The script doesn’t just explore a world where these characters are struggling with many issues but also this sense of change that would be the catalyst for what would happen to Europe in the 21st Century.
Haneke’s direction is largely unconventional in terms of his approach to shooting each vignette with a lot of it revolving around uninterrupted long shots to play into everything that is happening at a location or in a room. Shot largely on location in Paris as well as areas outside of Paris plus Romania and Mali, Haneke presents a world that is becoming increasingly modern in not just its setting but also in social attitudes and such where Anne lives in a posh apartment with Georges though the farm that his father owns is completely removed from modern conventions despite a few things he owns such as a tractor. Haneke’s visual approach largely consists of medium and wide-medium shots to play into characters at a certain location where as close-ups and wide shots are rarely used in the film other than the opening and closing scenes in the film involving the deaf children. The direction also emphasizes on these moments that do play on as if it is set in real-time whether it is Maria in Romania reconnecting with locals as some are planning to leave the country due to political and social instability or Amadou dealing with the chaos in his home as his father asks Amadou’s younger brother about what happened to him in school.
In the latter, Haneke is just focusing on them while there’s chatter in the background with Amadou’s mother constantly interfering as she is trying to get her word as it play into not just her lack of rationality but her own ideas of superstitions becoming disconnected with reality considering that there is an element of racism involved in what Amadou’s brother is dealing with. The usage of long shots are also in simple moments such as Georges talking to his father about Jean as well as a discomforting moment at a metro where Anne is harassed by an Arab while an elderly Arab watches in disgust. It is a moment that showcases the chaos of modern attitudes but also the fact that modern attitudes don’t last as there is always some act of kindness that occur no matter how different people are whether in social classes or in ethnic backgrounds. Overall, Haneke crafts an evocative yet confrontational film about people’s lack of communication with one another in pre-Millennium Europe.
Cinematographer Jurgen Jurges does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography in its approach to realism as it emphasizes less on style but rather capture something at the moment while also showcasing scenes in the film that Anne is making to be more stylized in its look. Editors Karin Hartusch, Nadine Muse, and Andreas Prochaska do excellent work with the editing as it has some rhythmic cuts for a few vignettes in the opening and closing scenes as well as a few bits such as Georges’ slideshow of what he captured at Kosovo. Production designer Emmanuel de Chauvigny and set decorator Laurence Vendroux do amazing work with the look of the apartment that Anne lives in along with messier apartment that Georges live in that is a sharp contrast to the more cramped and poorer homes that Maria and Amadou and his family live in. Costume designer Francoise Clavel does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with a lot of loose clothing from Anne that she is wearing as it play into the idea that she might be pregnant during a conversation with Georges at a supermarket (though Binoche was pregnant during filming).
The sound work of Jean-Pierre Laforce and Guillaume Sciama is superb in capturing many of the natural elements on location including the drumline rehearsals as it help maintain an air of realism into the film. The film’s music by Giba Goncalves is wonderful as it is mainly a drumline piece that only appears in two segments with one being a rehearsal and the other being the main performance as the music would appear in a couple of vignettes towards the end as it play into some of the dramatic chaos.
The casting by Kris Portier de Bellair is fantastic from Andree` Tansy as an elderly neighbor of Georges, Florence Loiret as Amadou’s date at a restaurant that Anne and Georges were eating at, Nathalie Richard and Arsinee Khanjian as a couple of friends Anne eats with at that dinner, Aissa Maiga as Amadou’s sister, Marc Duret as the policeman in the main fight, Walide Afkir as a young Arab who harasses Anne at the metro, Maurice Benichou as the old Arab who defends Anne, Didier Flamand as a film director on the film Anne is working with, and Bruno Todeschini as Anne’s co-star in the film she is working on. The performances of Bob Nicolescu as Dragos and Crenguta Hariton Stoica as Irina are terrific as a couple of Romanians that Maria knows as the former wants to help her get back to France while the other is a relative who is getting married and thinks Maris is making a mistake in trying to go back to France. Guessi Diakite-Goumdo is fantastic as Amadou’s younger yet deaf sister who is seen in the film’s opening sequence and as part of the drumline.
Djibril Kouyate and Maimouna Helene Diarra are superb in their respective roles as Amadou’s parents with the former being a rational cab driver trying to deal with all of the chaos in his life while the latter is someone who believes in superstitions and such as she becomes disconnected with the modern world. Luminita Gheoghiu is excellent as Maria as a Romanian immigrant who hoped to sell newspapers in France unaware that no one does that anymore as she gets deported only to try and return as it plays into someone who is just wanting to make money but is completely disconnected with modern-day society. Ona Lu Yenke is brilliant as Amadou as a young Malian man who witnessed Jean throwing a piece of trash at Maria as he confronts him only to get himself in trouble as he deals with not just prejudice towards him but also the fact that he’s at fault for being nosy and also a bit arrogant about the ways of the world.
Alexandre Hamidi is amazing as Jean as Georges’ son who has anger issues as he is sent to his grandfather’s farm where he finds himself not enjoying life there as he strives to be part of the modern world. Josef “Sepp” Bierbichler is incredible as Georges’ father as a farmer who struggles to make Jean feel comfortable as he also deals with changing times as he plays a man disconnected with modern society and has no answers in how to catch up. Thierry Neuvic is remarkable as Georges as a photojournalist who is often caught up in his own work as he also tries to make an artistic voice for himself as he would neglect Anne and his own son. Finally, there’s Juliette Binoche in a phenomenal performance as Anne Laurent as an actress who is dealing with working but also the chaos in her boyfriend’s family life as she does what she can to be supportive while also dealing with chaos in her own life and the attitudes of those who treat her terribly.
Code inconnu: Recit incomplete de divers voyages is a sensational film from Michael Haneke. Featuring a great cast, a straightforward yet unconventional visual approach and its study of modern society and the lack of communication from people in that world. It is a film that doesn’t play by the rules due to its unconventional and fragmented style yet it does explore a world that is coming undone by modernist ideals that would later wreak havoc on Europe in the 21st Century. In the end, Code inconnu: Recit incomplete de divers voyages is a phenomenal film from Michael Haneke.
Michael Haneke Films: (The Seventh Continent) – (Benny’s Video) – (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance) – (The Castle (1997 TV film)) - Funny Games (1997 film) - The Piano Teacher - (Time of the Wolf) – Cache` - Funny Games (2007 film) - The White Ribbon - Amour (2012 film) - Happy End
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I really loved Cache, I should look into this one!
@Brittani-If you're planning on buying some DVD/Blu-Rays from Criterion. Do it now at Barnes & Noble and it's 50% off right now until December.
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