Funny Games

Ann, George, and Georgie are happily traveling to their summer home. The movie sets its tone quickly as a game of "guess that classical music" abruptly changes to a heavy, disturbing, punk rock screamfest. As we the audience listens and watches the opening credits flash over the classical music listening family, we soon understand that the filmmaker at least has the courtesy to warn our senses of the things to come.  

 

As George and Georgie are in the back setting up the sail boat, Ann is faced with two overly polite young men asking to borrow some eggs. Once within the house the boys manipulate Ann and turn the situation to their favor. When the Georges come back from the dock Ann is almost in tears as she tries to shove the boys out the door.

 

The boys manipulate the father quickly onto their side of the argument causing Ann to leave the room frustrated and defeated. When George realizes these boys are numb to his gentle gestures to leave his temperature steadily rises to forceful measures. Initiating the first blow George is quickly overtaken and left with a broken leg on the floor.

 

Soon the little almost nuclear family's happy holiday quickly turns into a struggle for survival.

 

Acclaimed filmmaker Michael Haneke has remade this film from his own 1997 movie of the same title. The remake is a shot by shot remake of its Australian predecessor bringing me to my first question. Why would a filmmaker choose to remake his own film in another country and create it exactly the same (save for the actors of course)?

 

Naomi Watts who also acts as executive producer did an excellent job as gentle house wife turned survivalist mother. Tim Roth who plays a pacifistic father is always a pleasure on screen. Haneke's long takes and patient camera creates a perfect canvas for these actors to freely paint their characters and create heart pounding suspense this movie relies on.

 

Much like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days the camera holds on the characters never cutting but somehow always missing the actual action at hand. For example...you never actually see anyone die in the film. It always happens off screen. The director forces our heads away only to focus on the reactions of the character observing or in the other room listening. This is brilliant technique that I find far more effective than showing the ins and out of a knife or the brutal explosion of a shot gun blast.

 

Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet did a frustratingly amazing job at making you hate them. They're over polite sadistic smiles, pleases, and thank yous boil your blood and raise your blood pressure. Manipulation is the key word for these characters.

 

Funny Games accomplishes what its purpose flawlessly. My beef is not with its success but with the morbidity of its content and the darkness of its evil. The films enemies prey on the innocent in the name of destroy something beautiful. There's not much more to this movie than that. Haneke holds a magnifying glass over an ant hill and invites us to watch...and no one is laughing.  

Reviewed by: shea
5 Comment(s)
* (asterisk) (http://suchastheyare.blogspot.com) said...
I really liked the original -- which is Austrian, by the way, not Australian! -- and I like Michael Haneke a lot, so I will watch this in the name of comparison.

Apparently, Haneke always said that the film was aimed at Americans, who he feels lap up violent cinema without ever analyzing exactly what they are accepting as okay.

However, Americans (on the whole) don't watch subtitled movies, so his satire was somewhat lost on them (apparently only some 5,000 Americans are thought to have seen the original version!). Hence the US remake...
Shea said...
DANG..yo right...I read too quickly over the country when researching. Thanks for the catch. PUT ANOTHA SHRIMP ON THE BARBY!!!!

That makes since about the subtitles and American violence. I have sat in countless foreign films with people leaving once the subtitles start.

The movie was good...I would recommend it to the few elite(Adam, you, Andy, Nick Stewart) but ironically enough the average Americans I know won't get it. Too slow, too patient, and not enough blood.

Its funny that you say Americans eat up the violence. This is true but why is that we keep getting foreign films with alternate happy American endings. Hell...not even foreign. They will script an ending and then go back and reshoot it to make it happy.

I am interested in hearing your comparisons of the remake and this one. I would be up for seeing the original if you suggested it being worth it after your comparison.

Andy said...
This movie was intense. I was so stressed out the whole time. I sat there feeling angry, frustrated and helpless along with the victims. The only times I snapped out of my empathy was when the ringleader guy would talk directly to the audience and when he picked up the remote. Although I think that scene was so you would feel the satisfaction you had been longing for only to have it yanked away before it could be fully savored.
The acting was almost flawless - especially from Watts and Roth. And the 2 evil pricks did a great job of making me hate them.
There was nothing morally redeemable about it. Leaving, part of me wished I wouldnt have seen it. It was almost like watching a long drawn out snuff film. But I think I would give it 3.5 stars for the performances, atmosphere and direction.
martha said...
this is one i was drawn to when i saw a preview not long ago. i might check it out... just need to find a time when i'm in the mood.

brilliant review, btw (aside, of course, from the australian slip) ;)
Adam said...
I was extremely stressed out during this as well, Andy. Truth be told, it was downright torturous at points. I would rather watch the 'rape scene' in Hills Have Eyes for 4 hours straight than undergo the kind of depraved craziness of that movie.

Really good, but scarred for life... like Misery x32964