Funny Games (2007) Michael Haneke

Production Budget: $15 million
Gross: $1.5 million

Funny Games is a shot for shot remake of the original Funny Games by the original director.  When I say shot for shot I mean Gus Van Sant ain’t got sh*t on this shot for shot like Haneke does.   The movie follows an upper class family of Ann (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth), and their son Georgie.  Shortly after they arrive they are held hostage in their home by a pair of preppy looking killers.  The killers make a bet with the family they will be dead the next 12 hours.

Funny Games is an incredibly polarizing movie as is the case with most of Haneke’s work.  I’ve only seen three of his movies (Funny Games, The Piano Teacher, and Cache) but I seem to recall that all of those movies have that love it or hate it quality to them.  Funny Games is intended to be both a statement on the media’s portrayal of violence and a deconstruction of the horror genre.  Our two seemingly upper middle class killers fill the role of media killers by spouting out every excuse given by the media for their behavior: bad parenting, drug addiction, middle class ennui.  I’m surprised they also didn’t mention video game violence and rock music.  Although we are given screeching metal in the intro so who knows.

Haneke breaks several conventions of movies in order to deconstruct the genre.  Almost all the violence happens off screen denying the audience its thirst for blood.  There is also a scene where Naomi Watts is forced to strip for her killers to stay alive where they focus of the camera stays on her face.  Despite the disturbing nature of the scene (Watts stripping to save her child from being murdered) Haneke knows most people would watch the scene for pure titillation and denies the viewer that.  The killers break the fourth wall, also making the audience complicit in their murders.  Some have cited that as a reason to hate the movie, but I feel it does work as the killers are seemingly going further in their “games” only to pleasure us and our need for violence.

Another issue people have faulted the movie for is its slow pacing and long static shots.  I felt those shots were almost like that of Pasolini in Salo.  The camera is merely us being another observer in the room.  We are not meant to have an omniscient view or flashy techniques to spice up the tension.  The acts are shown right in front of us and we have to deal with it.

The last and probably biggest flaw people latch onto is the remote control scene.  [spoiler]There is a scene where Ann grabs a gun and shoots one of the killers.  The other killer grabs a remote control, rewinds the movie, and prevents his partner from being shot.  That, in many people’s views, are a big steaming pile of bullsh*t.  I however did not have a problem with it as Haneke makes it quite clear from the beginning he is f*cking with us.  So when he does this act by the end I do not feel betrayed.  Haneke wanted to give the audience a last glimmer of hope this movie would degenerate into another typical horror movie where the female protagonist goes all Ellen Ripley on her would be killers.  [/spoiler]

People really don’t seem to get what Haneke was trying to achieve with this movie.  Many of the reviews on IMDb and even Phelous of TGWTG make many of the rather dumb complaints that its “not bloody enough”, “the violence happens off screen”, “the victims deserved it”, and so on.  Now I can understand someone like Phelous not liking it, but to use those reasons makes you the same moronic sadistic dullard Haneke is preaching against in this movie.  I think he needed to be more thoughtful of his review instead of mugging for the camera with his own skits. But this isn’t about TGWTG.  The point is, this isn’t torture porn and you are not supposed to be entertained by mindless sadistic torture.

That’s not to say the movie isn’t critic proof.  Not at all.  You could make the argument Haneke failed in his message or failed in executing his message.  I will admit that at times I wish he learned the word subtlety.  Its one thing to make a brilliantly subtle movie that deconstructs a genre while at the same time entertains an audience.  Its quite another thing to essentially duct tape someone to a chair, pry their eyes open like Alex DeLarge, get out your soap box, and brow beat someone for an hour and a half.  At a point you just become preachy and didactic and people don’t like that.  Of course, I say he should be more subtle, but it appears reading many IMDb comments maybe he was still being too subtle for some of these crowds.  And I still don’t quite know why Haneke did a shot for shot remake for Americans.  Maybe he wanted to head off other directors before it turned into a PG-13 remake like Prom Night.  Haneke already kind of figured the movie would bomb.  He said somewhere that if the movie was a commercial success he knew he did something seriously wrong.

Overall I think the movie is fine.  I have now seen it twice essentially with the original and the remake.  Its good, not great.  It has its flaws but it entertained me overall.  Which one should you see?  I usually say the original but I really don’t see a problem going either way here.  This still is and always will be a polarizing film so I kind of hesitate to say anyone should see this.   I think if you read this review and kind of see where I’m coming from in my analysis then you should also appreciate it.  For everyone else its a boring pretentious mess.

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