Accented Style in Code Unknown: the imaged homeland


In his book An Accented Cinema, Naficy states that “accented films” are personal works by immigrant or exile directors living and producing “in the interstices of divergent host societies” (Naficy2001). There exists an exilic and diasporic cultural tradition within this frame. This exchange between personal and societal experience, authenticity and rearrangement, resembles many classical categories, also being built by revisiting and revising. An accented style should be sought through both the feeling of the filmmaker and the cultural productions that preceded them (Naficy2001), to avoid forcing accented films into an unchanged genre. Also, Naficy’s notion of “accented” still depends on the sovereignty of specific state, somehow ignores the trend of globalization and In this context, Michael Haneke’s 2000 work Code Unknown is a good example to explore this possibility, since it is a film by non-migrant questioning the typical notion of homeland in the context of the real experience from a war reporter.

Previously, the “accented styl is somehow an ambivalent label in Haneke’s work, because it is hard to be recognized directly for its ingenious structure and non- . to figure out what an outsider can do in the accented group style awaiting identification. In Edward Said’s words, ‘modern Western culture is in large part the work of exiles, émigrés, [and] refugees’ (2000). The “terminal loss” from the view of people, can be turned to a motif of modern culture in a transnational level. In the film, the juxtaposition of several private stories is stressed by its fragmented styles. This form is also dominant in many other accented films. And of course, the de-emphasizing of can be found in multilingual operation. It portrays a fragmented image of individuals living in Paris, especially those from or Eastern Europe. And these segments lead us to reedit the lifelines of each character, rather than following the linear narrations, which might weaken the voice of each sequence. In this respect, certain answers are never provided, and sometime we are invited to question the existence of present or truth.

Amadou’s mother, an African housewife, who is interviewed the of the frame after her son being caught. She answers almost to herself, checking her sobs, and occasionally get into She yells to the speaker without soundtrack, maybe audience that “who could possibly want that [the land of his ancestors]?” This carul use of documentary-style and medium and static shot allows us to be a listener, in a distance. The emotional interweaves with the indifferenvoice-over from the interviewer, which might also represent Haneke behinthe camera. The ongoing immigrant stream and the inhospitable situation the homeland weaken to return (Cox, 2019), and make the traditional nostalgia and notion of communities that are “not-here” become problematic. They recreate identities and memories in host countries, trauma, chalnging the traditional form of belonging and forsaken homes. But what hapns next could be doubting the truth, when the scene is represented in a atic and distant way.

Unlike his depressed wife, Amadou’s father leaves his family behind and temporarily returns to Mali, his ancestral home. A separated scene outlines his viewing when he drives his car, coiling through the crowded side-streets after going cross a gate. He looks at the crowds from the claustrophobic space inside. We feel this dislocation and asynchrony (Silvey, 2011) between Mali and the character. An uncertain elsewhere also appears when Maria, being deported to Romania, we can observe this similar view shot feature again: Maria siting still with her friend Popa in the confined car, looks at the outside world. In that sense, the blurred and unspecific street landscape is shaped by the so-called “tourist gaze” (Urry, 1990). She lies to Popa that she works in a school without being homeless in Paris. Therefore, this illusory homeland, is destroyed by both the sense of being forgotten by the and from the life. This deployment of homeland is thus read in a transnational way and reconstructed in two different lines, dialogue between Amadou and Maira.

Code Unknown translates the attitude towards pre-established homeland into an undesirable and even impossible going-nowhere phenomenon. But still, this idea is still unsettled down in the film. This apparent inaccessibility manifests in Maria’s returning back to the Paris street that accompany the drums, a space where she reorients herself to be a displaced refugee, yet we don’t know what her purpose is. Intriguingly, family of Amadou has formed their own home in Paris, Amadou’s father revisited his native land as a rich still the discrimination and societal isolation. The audience will immerse in these moments when we cannot find quick solutions. To the networked narratives in Code Unknown the juxtaposition and reconnection of people in different places. It subverts the dominant classical mode in spatio-temporalities and causality. In another word, it attempts to create and weave a series of personal and so as to witness the refugee passages. And this, serves as another the refugee reports in mass media (Bayraktar, 2019), which only views the refugees as victim or criminal. In this way, Code Unknown tends to follow the accented patterns. Paris, together with the places around Europe, are defined as anonymous spaces, therefore escaping the typical central-marginal routine in the Haneke frames the film as pertaining equally to West and East. He refused to accept the representation of Western sphere as a superior or "civilized" space that has overcome its ethnic dilemmas.

The content of this film, especially scenes about the vanishing of homeland proves that in some measures, the accented style exists there by trans-use and of some modes in accented films. Admittedly, providing diverse reading on the notion of homeland is also what some accented films attempting to do. In Naficy’s view, ‘Home is anyplace; it is temporary and it is moveable; it can be built, rebuilt, and carried in memory by acts of imagination’ (2001). Therefore, the opening to non-migrant movies never necessarily means it would defy the previous forms. To conclude, works non- screenwriters and directors should not be excluded from accented style when it derives from a different access to share history and memory, especially adds an alternative way of revisiting the tradition of accented movie.


Naficy, H. 2001) ‘An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking’. Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Edward Said (2000) ‘Reflections on exile and other essays’. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Urry, John (1990) ‘The Tourist Gaze’. London: Sage Publications.

Silvey, V. 2011) 'Paris, borders and the concept of Europe in Paris, Je t’aime and Code Unknown'. Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 1.

Ayça Tunç Cox (2019) ‘Portrayal of Turkish–German migratory relations in Turkish films of the 1980s: a call for an alternative reading’. Turkish Studies, 20:5, 794-811

Nilgun Bayraktar (2019) ‘Beyond the spectacle of refugee crisis: Multidirectional memories of migration in ’. Journal of European Studies, Vol. 49(3–4) 354­–373


Code Unknown/Code , Michael Haneke, MK2 Productions, France, 2001