Funny Games (1997/2007)

Discussion in 'Movies & Media' started by Daydreamer, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. Daydreamer

    Jan 29, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Today, I saw Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997). There's also a 2007 scene-by-scene American remake by the same director. The premise is simple and unoriginal:

    I admit when going into this film I expected and wanted to see mindless killing and bloodlust. Although the movie does have those, what I got was completely different from what I had imagined.

    I suggest you stop reading here if you haven't seen this movie. There are no major spoilers event wise, but some things are better left as a surprise. If this movie sounds interesting to you, watch it, otherwise read on and see if it does afterwards.

    Yes, this is a very disturbing, horrifying, and most importantly, shocking movie. It starts off innocently: The family plays a game to pass the time. Then shrieking background music plays as the frame-filling movie title is displayed in blood-red, family still blissfully playing their game, more than subliminally foreshadowing the things to come. We relish in this moment as well as the rest of the begging as we already know what's going to happen to this family. We relish in the tension that stirs when their dog continuously barks at strangers; when the insistent strangers become pests and refuse to leave; when a phone is accidentally dropped in water, when a knife is left behind on a boat, and when the offscreen barking dog becomes silent. During this time we see the family's golf clubs and fancy security system that will soon be used against them when the family is held captive in their own home.

    The trespassers make bets on whether or not all three prisoners will be dead in 12 hours. One of the trespassers sometimes breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience, "What do you think? Do you think they've a chance of winning? You're on their side, aren't you? So, who will you bet with?" There's another moment where he does this, when the captives plead to just kill them already and end their misery, "We're not up to feature film length yet. Is that enough? But you want a real ending, with plausible plot development, don't you?" The movie forces the audience to participate. Who do you think will win? Would it be better if the movie ended right now, or continued? The movie also doesn't provide a reason why the trespassers do what they do; it's even jokingly talked about by the trespassers themselves. For all we know it might be simply because they're bored.

    As I was watching, I constantly and continuously asked myself, "Am I supposed to be enjoying this?" By the end credits, I came to the conclusion, "No. This movie was never meant to be entertainment, but something else." I was reminded of Gaspar Noé's Irréversible (2002) and Gus Van Sant's Elephant (2003), movies that also use pointless violence to make a point about violence. This film is not primitive, it's even merciful (to us). Humiliating and bloodcurdling scenes are handled with the power of suggestion: Almost all violence and nudity are offscreen, and the one, possibly joyous moment of violence we do see, was never supposed to happen, and thus was made like it never did. The original movie was never rated, the director could have decided to show as much violence and nudity as possible, but instead what the camera does linger on, is the suffering: Close ups of faces, with painful expressions; long, static shots of injured characters, as they slowly struggle to walk out of a room, or as they desperately try to get the phone working again; we hear cries of torment as something horrible happens while the camera focuses elsewhere: On an invader calmly making a sandwich. Rules of conventional cinema are broken, and our expectations as an audience are challenged.

    The premise serves as a masquerade, luring in our inner sadist. We are denied what we came to see the movie for, instead we get the raw and agonizing experience of real, unrelenting horror. The film wishes to make us disgusted that this violence has taken place, and ashamed that we wanted it to happen. Haneke has admirably created a movie crafted for people to hate. When people reject it, he has succeeded in his goal. I did not enjoy this film, but I admire it greatly. The movie title is right: It is indeed a game, and we are a part of it, and the only one laughing is the director.