Monday, February 13, 2006

Haneke's optimism

The second Blog-A-Thon at Girish's home is about Code Unknown .

I would like to add a few lines to Girish A's support of Haneke's optimism and humanism. It has been a while since I saw Code Unknown , but bits and pieces of it came back to me as I saw Caché a couple of weeks ago.

What strikes me as the most interesting part of Haneke's optimism is his idea that any meaningful discourse between classes or races, which in the western world often overlap, needs to be initiated by the young generation of the oppressed class and targeted to the young generation of the privileged class . Older characters of all classes(races) are almost pathologically incapable of any successful communication.

The restaurant scene is chronologically one of the last scenes as it clearly happens after the street encounter. It is interesting that even after that traumatic experience and after constantly being hassled by his family for "hanging out with white girls", Amadou has not given up and is dating a white girl. It is also interesting that they are talking about his father's harrowing experiences in colonial Mali. In Caché, Majid's son, after failing to extract Georges out of his glaciated denial, does not seem to have much trouble when he is talking to Georges's son in the last scene. During his futile attempt to engage Georges in a conversation, Majid's son mentioned that he had been brought up by his father at home - not in an orphanage where kids were taught to hate.

Both Amadou and Majid's son are familiar with the history of oppression and the class relations of the present. However, they are not full of self-pity like Majid is, nor do they share the superstition, paranoia and nostalgia of Amadou's parents. In their France, they are hoping for an outcome different from Majid's self-destruction or Amodou's father's return to Mali. They will have to take the initiative and start the dialogue to make that happen. The other side is not being taught history, has little first-hand experience of what had happened and has a lot more to lose. Haneke seems to be saying, at least to me, that he does not have any hope left in the middle-aged and older generation of the white European upper and middle class, but that is not the end of the world.

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