Movie Title: Funny Games
Director: Michael Haneke
Date Released: September 11th, 1997 (Germany)
Date Seen: July 10th, 2013
Language/Country of Origin: German / Austria
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
Funny Games is a very interesting thriller that follows two men, Peter and Paul, as they torment a family at their lakehouse. They have some “fun” with the family, putting them through a number of “games” – that involve in intense emotional pain, and typically a bit of physical pain as well. But it’s not a torture-porn movie, oh no, it’s so much more than that. The movie was said to be made to have a “moralistic comment about the influence of media violence on society.” The director, Michael Haneke, didn’t even intend for it to be labeled as a horror film, although that’s typically where the movie gets put. The film actually only has one scene of actual violence. A lot of violence takes place, but other than one scene, it takes place off camera.
The movie is also interesting in that it breaks the 4th wall – IE one of the characters repeatedly looks straight into the camera either acknowledging the audience, or speaking directly to the audience. Haneke really pulls you in and makes you become an active participant in the movie. You have to think about how this violence is affecting you – do you really want more violence? Are you a bad person that you want more violence? Are you disappointed that there isn’t enough visual violence? Have you become so immune to repeated violent images that the majority of this movie is “boring”? There also is a slight commentary on pornography – which I discussed in the second part of the review.
Peter and Paul were the most interesting characters, just because of the small details you find out about them throughout the course of the story. You yearn to know more about them, but it never really comes. The standout performance, however, is Susanne Lothar as Anna. She does an incredible job – especially because she is made to cry, a lot. Her character can be a bit whiny and annoying at times, but hey, it’s to be expected after all that she has gone through. The movie is just so fun to watch because you love the killers – they have that Hannibal Lector factor about them. They are smart, intelligent, charming, and good looking, so you identify them. They even sometimes make you feel like you should be siding with them on their fucked up torture spree. Which is part of what, I think, Haneke was aiming for.
It’s a great movie if you can accept the breaking of the 4th wall – and take the movie for what it is. A commentary. A very very smart commentary built around a well written movie, with great actors, magnificent suspense, and intense emotional scenes.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review
I think this movie now has one of my most favorite intro scenes ever. It opens with us watching Anna and Georg playing a guessing game – which is ironic, considering the fact that they will be playing guessing games later…. just of a different sort. They are each putting in a CD and having the other person guess which composer wrote the piece and what piece it is. Then, however, mid-game, we switch from listening to the music in the car to a overlay of some death metal. This is the first time that you are pulled out of the movie, creating a sort of barrier between you and the family, reminding you that you are watching a story – and that you’ve chosen to watch something horrible happen to this cute, perfect little family.
The next time you are pulled out of the film is after we have met Peter and Paul. It is during the first “game”, when Paul makes Anna hunt for the dead dog. While she is searching, Paul turns to the camera, looking straight into it, and winks. You are again reminded that you are a viewer and this is something he is doing for you – and you like it. You enjoy this kind of torture he is enacting upon Anna.
Speaking of torturing Anna – she really gets the full grunt of the torture. The scene where she is forced to strip was a pretty intense scene and seemed to be to be a direct commentary on sexual pornography. The whole movie is about the perversion people have toward violent events (a “porn” in their own right). But we see the various reactions of the people in the room to the mother stripping. Anna is obviously embarrassed – as 3 men look on. Her husband is embarrassed for her as well, the child is literally forced to hide his eyes due to the pillow case, Peter is aroused and can’t take his eyes off of it, while Paul just watches it for the train wreck of emotional damage he is causing. I think this is just to show you how porn can make anyone feel – a various number of reactions, arousal, disturbing pleasure, embarrassment, etc. But who do we focus on the most? Paul – probably the one watching it the most disturbingly for how amusing he finds the whole ordeal. Are we as viewers like Paul? What about in terms of this movie? We really are Paul – enjoying the torture, albeit disgusting and horrible. The media has made us immune to violence and thus we crave it – more and more of it.
The scene after the son is shot, was the most powerful and intense scene of the movie. Anna is sitting there just trying to digest what just happened – her son was shot, the killers supposedly have left, her son is dead, her husband is injured, her son has been murdered, and so – on. It is one of the longest moments in any movie. The camera never moves (not even for the next ten minutes) – but just watching Anna sit in silence is about the longest moment in any movie. It’s a whole minute of silence – you’re forced to reflect on the gravity of the situation and the overall effect of it on this family – rather than simply just “oh, that kid died. ok moving on”. Once Anna finally brings her self to move from the chair and go towards her sons body, she then sits for even longer next to her sons body, leaving you with a perfect view of his body behind her and his blood on the other side of her. The scene then continues in a 10 minute single shot scene, starting with her sitting there all the way through Anna and Georg untying themselves and leaving the room. It pulls you in and out of the movie, making you think about what happened to the family, how you would react to the situation, where did the killers go, are they really gone, are they coming back, wow for once we get to see the aftermath of this type of situation, OK dang this is a long scene, and wow this is fucked up, etc. It’s just a lot that goes through your head – and makes you think about yourself rather than simply what is happening to these characters you won’t ever see again.
One of my favorite scenes is the very conversation on the couch between the family and Paul – although, the final scene on the couch is one of my favorites as well. This scene is when Paul makes the bet that the family will not be alive, but the family bets that they will be alive. He then looks straight into the camera and asks who “you” think will win the bet. I was sold on the movie at this point. Later, near the end of the movie, we come back to this very same scenario where Paul is talking to the family and once again addresses the audience, first by acknowledging the fact that “we aren’t up to feature film length yet” at about 90 minutes in, and then he turns and asks the audience “have you had enough? but you want a real ending, with plausible plot development, don’t you?” Paul is blatantly mocking the viewer saying that we haven’t had our fill of violence yet – which is what we seemingly come to movies and media for. So after this we go to the first truly violent scene of the entire movie. We’ve heard violence going on in the other rooms and seen the aftermath of violence, even in this very room with Peter torturing of Georg – but it was again, happening off camera. When Anna finally grabs the gun, it goes off, killing Peter. We see his wound, the blood splatter behind him on the wall, Peter falls, and we see his dead face on the ground, still clutching at his bloody wound in shock. This is the first time we’ve seen the actual blood and gore that we might have come to the movie for – and we get excited – but it’s quickly undone by Peter with his remote control trick. So unlike before, where we had time to contemplate what this meant for each of the characters and ourselves – we are simply teased with that bit of violence, left wanting more as the movie is “rewound”, and then left to be disgusted with ourselves in the fact that we wanted more killing.
An interesting commentary on violence in media, while at the same time being an interesting, well written, smart movie, with a great plot.