[Movie] Code Unknown (2000)

  • French Title: Code inconnu : Récit incomplet de divers voyages
  • Directed By: Michael Haneke
  • Cast: Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Josef Bierbichler

Look over by the wall. That’s the black kid who harassed Jean. Don’t let him see.

from the movie

Code Unknown” is the film to show you how Michael Haneke delivers his messages through the medium of camera works. Even though the messages are (too) directly shown to viewers through realistic settings and actions, Haneke’s directing converts the cliché to disturbing reality. The film consists of unedited long takes, cut only when the perspective of the shot changes (from the story of one character to that of another). Each scene faded to black before a new scene starts, which is a trademark of Haneke.

Alone, Hiding Place, Gangster, Guilty conscious, Sad, Locked up

sign languages from the prolog

The film is a portrayal of the dilemmas within a multi-cultural modern society, and Paris can be an ideal place to examine the issues. The film starts with the sign language of children. Their single word will be the theme of the following episodes.

The film juxtaposes the lives of several characters from different classes and ethnicities. They do not have any direct connections, but their lives are tied without much notice through a couple of small events, which is what you can see in Haneke’s films.

The title “Code Unknown” implies the igniting point of all future events. Because Jean (George’s brother) did not know the door code of Anne (an actress) and George (a war photographer), he remained outside and encountered Maria. The event of humiliating Maria, a beggar from Romania, by Jean triggered a chain reaction. The movie ends with another event of an unknown code. George cannot go inside his apartment because Anne changed the door code. This lack of communication between characters and ethnicities is what the film wants to depict.

Even though the film’s theme deals with social issues, the general tone of the movie is cynical. A heroic act turns out to be a bad result. Amadou tries to stand up for Maria, but his action only leads to her deportation. Also, nothing has changed. In the end, everyone is back to the starting point. Jean left home again; Maria is back to Paris, the same place where she was deported; Anne does not answer the phone.

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