Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys
Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages
****/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B+
starring Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Sepp Bierbichler, Ona Lu Yenke
written and directed by Michael Haneke
by Bryant Frazer In the vignette that opens Code Unknown, a young girl in pigtails, maybe 9 or 10 years old, cowers against a plain wall, trembling before director Michael Haneke's static camera. If you know Haneke's work--his previous film at the time, Funny Games, had depicted the torture and murder of a bourgeois French mom and dad plus their fair-haired moppet--the image is more than a little disturbing. But Haneke immediately pulls the rug out. Rather than cry, the girl suddenly stands and smiles, looking expectantly towards the camera. Haneke then cuts to reverse angles on different children, in close-up, also looking towards the camera. The girl has an audience, and so we understand that she was giving a performance. In this case, it's a game of charades among deaf children, with the spectators attempting to guess, using sign language, what the girl was trying to convey. "Alone?" one girl signs. The girl in pigtails shakes her head. Another signs, "Hiding place?" No. Nor is she trying to convey "guilty conscience," "gangster," "sad," or even "locked up." In the face of so many impassive classmates, the girl in pigtails finally looks weary and maybe on the verge of tears for real. With that, the screen goes black, and the title appears: Code Unknown.