Code Inconnu



Paris. A very husy boulevard. Sarneone throws a crurnpled piece of paper into the outstretched hands of a beggar-warnan. This is the band which, for an instant, links the trajectories of several very different characters:

Anne, a young actress, is an the threshold of making it in the cinema. Her boyfriend, Georges, is a war photographer, he is rarely in France. His father is a farmer. Georges' younger brother, Jean, has no interest in taking over the farm.

Amadou is a music teacher in an Institute for deaf-mute children. His father, a taxi driver, originates from Africa. His little sister is deaf and it's because of her that Amadou has chosen his profession.

Maria comes from Romania and sends home the money she gets from begging. Having been deported, she goes back home to spend some time with her family before embarking an another humiliating journey to France.

What do they have in common, these characters and those whose paths they cross?

Director's Statement

Dear Marin,
You asked me to write something for the press kit.

It's always very hard, impossible even, for me to sum up in a few sentences this "thing" which ends up becoming strangely complex, and on which one has spent most of one's time and energy for the past year and a half.

Moreover, I think that, even more so than my other films, code unknown resists this process and is harder to reduce to a single "theme". I think that, by reducing it to its most obvious ideas (the Babylonian confusion of languages, the incapacity to communicate, the coldness of the consumer society, xenophobia, etc.), we cannot avoid a mere string of clichés. That is always what happens when you try to isolate "themes". To do so, in my opinion, a short summary is ample.

Furthermore, there is little that can be said outside the aesthetic framework of the film. Otherwise I would have written a newspaper article instead of making a film. 1 do not think that my opinions on these “themes” are of much interest to anyone - nor should they be - I am not a "forger of opinions". The interesting thing about a table is its quality, its shape, its .functional nature, the way the material was shaped, not the cabinetmaker's opinion.
The only things that remain for me to say after the film is finished, and which might conceivably interest someone, are the questions which triggered and motivated the project, for my film is nothing other than an attempt to try out some of the solutions that one might put forward.

None of these questions are new, but they are still topical in the light of the prevailing media scene. Of course they were chosen in an arbitrary and incomplete way, but I hope that they evoke something of the intellectual climate which led me to make code unknown.

ls truth the sum of what we see and hear?
Can reality be represented?
To the observer, what: makes the represented object real, credible, or more precisely, worthy of being believed? What is the responsibility of the puppet master if the puppet perfectly imitates real life?
In the world of moving pictures, are illusion and deception twins or merely closely related?
Are the answers lies?
Are the questions answers?
Is the fragment the aesthetic response to the incomplete nature of our perception?
Is editing the simulation of the whole?
Is precision an aesthetic or a moral category?
Can allusion replace description ?
ls that which is off-camera more precise than that which is on?

I hope I haven't disappointed you too much, nor those who will be reading the press kit.

Best wishes,
Michael Haneke.

Director's Biography

Born in 1942, Michael Haneke studied philosophy, psychology and theatre in Vienna. From 1967 to 1970 he worked for German television. Since 1970 he has been an independent director and screenwriter. He has also directed theatre productions in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf. Frankfurt and Hamburg.


Cast & Crew

Directed by: Michael Haneke

Written by: Michael Haneke

Produced by: Marin Karmitz

Cinematography: Jürgen Jürges

Editing: Nadine Muse

Costume Design: Françoise Clavel

Make-Up & Hair: Thi Loan Nguyen

Original Score: Giba Gonçalves

Cast: Juliette Binoche (Anne), Thierry Neuvic (Georges), Onalu Yenke (Amadou)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2000