Funny Games

Apologies for the late “Weekend Free for All” post, but I have just finished watching Funny Games, and i felt it necessary to express an opinion of the film here.

Funny Games is a remake of an Austrian film of the same name, released in 1997, and the remake 10 years later. The same writer/director made both films, and without having seen the original film i am basing this on IMDB, but the 2007 film is a shot for shot remake. Let’s talk premise here. a family of three is taken hostage at their summer home by two psychopaths. That’s it. Inspires you to go find a copy of the film and watch huh? I implore you to do so, the film has more than enough merit to warrant a viewing or maybe 2, depending on the amount you wish to be able to analyze this twisted piece of cinema.

The thing with Funny Games is even with as formulaic as the premise is, the film breaks out of the mold of traditionalhorror movies, and makes something that is meant to make the viewer uncomfortable, and never allows for any release of tension. Michael Haneke has done a fantastic job of keeping the audience one step removed from all of the action in the film, wondering what and where the next moment of horror will show up. There is no background music, so there are no audio cues as to when there will be a scare, but then again, there are no traditional scares to be had in this film. All of the violence (sans a slap to the face and one other select scene) happens off camera, there are no “jump-out” scares, Haneke makes sure that while detached from this disjointed narrative’s action, the audience is still deeply engaged.

In essence, Paul and Peter (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet respectively) are the young, poshly dressed psychopaths that trap Naomi Watts and Tim Roth and their son played by Devon Gearhart in their summer home.  As well mannered as psychos could be, they come dressed in preppy outfits that wouldn’t be out of place at a yacht club, and each with a pair of golf gloves on. The trouble starts when Peter, the “clumsy” of the two asks to borrow eggs from Watts’ Anne, and after two attempts at taking 4 eggs back to their home, Anne gets upset, and asks them to leave, and when they refuse, George (Roth) steps in to make them leave. This starts the movie down a violent twisted path, and we are all lead by Paul. He essentially plays the role of ringleader and narrator. He commands Peter, and has most of the speaking parts in the film. Paul has a couple of instances where he addresses the audience directly, asking questions to the viewers directly, and these serve as one more tie to the tragedy that is befalling the family we are watching.

Technically, the movie does a few things out of the ordinary that are greatly appreciated by anyone watching from the behind the camera perspective. There are a number of shots which are longer than average; many times taking place when one character or another is going outside of the house. There will be about 30 seconds of the scene outside, almost as a still, then the character will move, breaking the tension. However, one of these long shots occurs at a crucial time in the film, and telling the circumstances would ruin the tension of the scene. Suffice it to say, a restrained Naomi Watts tries desperately to free herself from her bonds, and tries a number of things to no avail, then as she finally reaches her feet and hops across the room out of the frame, the camera pans to follow her, only to stop on an incapacitated Tim Roth, who awakens and is soon joined by a freed Watts. The scene carries so much weight, and the fact that it is one unbroken shot for 8 minutes (give or take) has such an incredible impact.

Another interesting choice by the filmmakers is the opening credits. The screen shows the two logos of the film companies, then shows the credit sequence of producers, stars, etc. as stark red letters on a black background. Until the first set of credits is over, there is no sound at all. Then, classical music and the family talking as they drive down a highway, while even more credits show. It has been a long time since a movie has been released with credits coming before the film that include assistant to the director, assistant sound people, and the like. These credits roll over Watts and Roth attempting to guess the music that the other puts on, and then suddenly changes to an experimental, noise rock song. Very jarring contradictions.

All in all, Funny Games makes for good viewing. But more importantly, it makes for a good reactionary piece. The intent of the filmmaker is to make you mad, to make sure that you are unable to decide what is going on, why it is happening, and what types of feelings you should have towards it. Haneke makes damned sure that you have an incontestable feeling towards the film by the end, and you want to know what kind of a person would make this film, and how can they sleep at night knowing what hey have crated? If you feel that way, then good. If not, I am not sure if you ave been immunized against unfeeling violence, or if this type of film just doesn’t resonate with you. I give it 3.5/5, specifically for the uneasy feeling i had the entire time. Thank the filmmaking heavens that someone has decided to come along and break some of the boundaries of horror movies, and maybe, if the stars align just right, the cheap slasher movie will have met its match.

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One Response to “Funny Games”

  1. The film is very creepy, and in a way more intelligent than your usual thriller movie, mostly because that’s the point of it.

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