Monday, July 2, 2012

Funny Games (1997)

Directed by: Michael Haneke

Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch

The Main Review: Funny Games, directed by Michael Haneke, was an Austrian film made in 1997. In this movie, two young men take hostage an affluent German family in their summer home. They then proceed to play psychological games with the mother, father, and son while making a bet that the family will be dead by 9 AM the next day. During that time, there is a dead dog, blood, mild sexual harassment of the mother, and heavy metal. Sounds like a good, straightforward home invasion flick, right? 
For the most part, you'd be right in saying that.

The film begins sweetly - Anna and Georg, wife and husband, playing a guessing game with Opera music while driving to their Austrian lake house. The whole family looks happy and peaceful. However, two minutes in, some loud, unsettling metal is thrown in over the quiet, tranquil scene as the opening credits are rolled. "FUNNY GAMES" is shown in big, bold, red letter - sending a clear message that this movie will probably not be very funny at all. (Spoiler: It really, really isn't.)

Anna and Georg come across their neighbors who are standing with two young men. While this group comes off as mildly odd to the family, no one really takes much notice of it. However, later on, one of the young men, Peter, comes to ask Anna to lend some eggs to her lady neighbor from earlier. Peter comes off a very polite and rather clumsy, but harmless. After dropping the eggs loaned to him several times, he is joined by Paul, who is equally polite and noticeably less clumsy.

Anna seems to notice something off about the boy's and asks for them to leave. When they refuse her (they just really want to those damn eggs!), Georg tries to remove them himself. This turns physical and he is hit in the leg with a golf club, crippling him for the rest of the movie. From there, the intentions of the boys become apparent fairly quick. Torture, humiliation, and, finally, death to all the members of the small family seem to be on the agenda.
What's worse is that Paul acknowledges us throughout the movie. When he forces Anna to search for her dead dog, he looks back at the camera, smirks, and winks as if we're in on the same joke. Every so often, he'll make a statement purely for us. 

It's said during the movie that the family's being kept alive for entertainment purposes. At first glance, you'd assume it's for the entertainment of the boys'. However, due to the fact that we, the audience, are addressed several times, we can also assume that the young men are keeping the family alive for us. Similarly, towards the end, Georg tells Paul that it's enough. He asks him to hurry up and kill them. Paul responds with: "We're not up to feature film length yet." He turns to us and asks, "Is that enough? But you want a real ending, with plausible plot development, don't you?" The members of the family aren't offed immediately - it's drawn out - because Paul and Peter are trying to entertain us. In that way, we are pulled into the movie as some sort of accomplice, despite most of us being on the family's side. While we do prolong their lives, we do nothing to save them. We just watch. 

Is this a commentary on the voyeuristic nature of film? I very much think so. And the commentary seems to be that we're bad, twisted people, just like Peter and Paul.

Here's Where It Gets Spoilerific: There is no turning point in the movie. The tables do not turn. Anna and Georg do not save themselves or their son. Revenge is not exacted. The police are not reached. No one saves them. They are each killed by 9 AM the next day. To speak conservatively, this was unexpected and unsettling. To speak less conservatively - Holy shit, everything good is dead and Paul is cheating! Not fair-Not fair-Not fair!!! *rolls around on the floor writhing in mental anguish* This is one of the only home invasion movies where at least one of the characters isn't saved. Maybe I don't watch enough home invasion, but generally, the police - or someone strong with a gun - shows up or, better yet, one of the victims flips things around and takes revenge on their captors. When Anna does kill one of her captors, Paul just undoes this action, showing us that he's in charge, we're not, and there is absolutely not hope for these people. That's when you really start to get a bad feeling in your stomach. 

Scenes To Watch Out For: When Paul rewinds the very movie itself and crushes all of our dreams.

Anything Else: There's a 2007 remake of this movie with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts. It was actually directed, again, by Michael Haneke. I've only watched a few scenes and the opening sequence but it is the  same damn movie. Shot-for-shot. There are no noticeable differences besides language and actors. Way to America - doing everything you can to not have to read subtitles. A big, sarcastic, "You go, girl!" to you.

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