You never look at me from where I see you': postcolonial guilt in caché

Summer 2010

Michael Haneke’s much-discussed film Caché (2005) explores the psychodynamics of postcolonial guilt as they are made manifest in the specific arena of the field of vision. To the puzzled consternation of many a critic and viewer, Caché objectifies the return of the colonial real in the form of a gaze, a gaze indexed by videotapes left anonymously for Georges on his doorstep. These tapes contain images shot from a camera the status of which is eminently paradoxical. Both included within and banished from the film’s diegesis, this camera torments Georges with memories of his childhood, memories that we see in the form of harrowing flashbacks or dream sequences. The video footage is also the film’s principle means of creating suspense: it incites our desire as viewers to solve the perplexing enigma of its ‘impossible’ hidden camera. Through a reconsideration of the gaze through the lens of Lacan’s analysis of Diderot’s Letter on the Blind (1749), this essay draws out how Georges’ desperate attempt to control the conditions of his own visibility reflects a refusal to acknowledge his complicity in the shameful colonial history of France.

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