Funny Games(1997)

They are not playing Funny Games!

They are not playing Funny Games!

Dir.: Micheal Haneke

Funny Games is the most horrifying film I have seen.There is nothing funny about it.When it was made it angered a lot of people.Some thought it was a cheap gimmick , others took it as a personal insult.But by and large it was considered a very important film.Haneke made the same film again 10 years later, not in German but in English this time.Remaking your own film is something rare and this remake is an even more daring experiment than the original, it’s an act of outright cinematic audacity.

So what is Funny Games all about?Its a very simple story or anti-story , an upper middle class couple Ann and George, stock characters from Haneke’s film which puts the european “haute bougouis” under the scanner, travel to their country home for a relaxing fishing, boating, golfing kind of weekend.They have neighbours in the country who are almost identical to them in socio economic strata, just that the names of the chosen family are Ann and George, another Hanake trademark.A well mannered, slightly rotund young man dressed in white T-shirt and shorts with white gloves appears, asking to borrow 4 eggs from Ann.She cheerfully obliges, but he clumsily breaks them.He asks again,, highly apologetic and she obliges again this time in a less forthcoming way.He manages to break them again.

By now Ann’s patience is running thin and George joins them, as well as another young man, similarly dressed, but much leaner and fitter.They have an argument which slowly builds up from being polite to icy to explosive.Soon Ann and George realise that they are under siege in their own home, cut off from the rest of the world.The two young men proceed to torture the couple and their child systematically and clinically, playing games that they alone find funny.

Now that sounds like a standard action horror flick except that Hanake is not interested in entertaining us with a story and a neat payback at the end.Instead he slowly but surely turns the camera on us, the audience, as we consume the violence on screen.How he does it, is a study in his very specific command of the cinematic medium.It’s obvious that Haneke is one of the most important directors working in cinema today.He is always provocative but he says this is his only film which was deliberately provocative.

We like to watch, but we need to see ourselves watching too.

We like to watch, but we need to see ourselves watching too.

So where do we stand as popcorn crunching consumers of violence, gluging down our super sized colas as human bodies are chopped and butchered in film after film like Saw and Hostel and their countless sequels.Funny Games in a way predicts the rise of this genre of TorturePorn.The important thing here is that Haneke makes no value judgements, he simply holds up a mirror, its instructive to know that we enjoy violence at a level more active than a subliminal or subconscious one.In a way it also tells us something about the difference between men and women with the audience for horror and torture porn heavily skewed toward men.

Hanake states that if you sat through this film you needed this film, if you were repulsed and walked out within the first 40 minutes you did not.At the time this film was made it had the power to incite debate.It was not a consumer product.Today the film can be seen as a consumer product.Perhaps this is why he made the film again within the Hollywood system with big stars like Naomi Watts and Tim Roth in English for a mainstream audience to test his hypotheses about how we are becoming even more insensitive and jaded consumers of violence.

In the present time of course the reaction was quite different and among the cineastes the overriding question was why did he make it again.But the mainstream audience which walked in to see a piece of Torture Porn came back grumbling for its lack of payoff.I love films like Funny Games because violence is not funny, graphic images of real life violence on news everyday is supposed to make our stomach churn.The great filmmaker Louis Bunuel could become physically sick when he read a distressing news in the papers.I wonder how he would have reacted to Syria gassing its own citizens and its coverage on TV.

#This 1997 German version is the better film of the two in my opinion, but the 2007 US version is more accessable.

Categories: Timeless Cinema, World Cinema

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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