The Code of Silence

Michael Haneke, 2000

Ah. The feeling of wanting to say something but can't say it. This dilemma is what Austrian auteur Michael Haneke explores in Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages (otherwise known as Code Unknown).

It all started with a piece of thrown garbage. From there we see a series of vignettes about various lives, people who are trapped in various worlds of silence.

Jean (played by Alexandre Hamidi), an angst-ridden farm lad, is sick and tired of his emotionally distant father (Sepp Bierbichler). He runs away to live with his brother, an out-of-the-country photojournalist (Thierry Neuvic). Instead, Jean finds his brother's girlfriend, Anne Laurent (Juliette Binoche), who gives Jean the key to their apartment. Being the douchebag that he is, Jean throws a piece of garbage at Maria (Luminița Gheorghiu), a foreigner begging on the street because she just lost her job as a newspaper vendor. Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke), a Frenchman of African origin, sees Jean's rudeness and demands Jean to apologize to the old lady; when Jean refuses to do so, the two guys fight, causing the police and Anne to enter the scene.

Communication, or the lack thereof, takes the center stage in Code Unknown. In this film, Haneke shows us different kinds of muteness: physical, foreign, forced, and self-inflicted.

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