Funny Games

April 23, 2008 at 12:02 am 1 comment

First, I have to say that as far as theater experiences go, this was one of the worst. The audience started making rude comments about halfway through. By the end, one group was openly deriding almost every line of dialogue. At one point, they were actually making paper airplanes and throwing them down the aisle. Worst of all, these were my friends. On top of being completely annoyed, I felt embarrassed at their behavior- and also guilty for enjoying a movie they so clearly hated.

All of that aside, it was still one of the most riveting, horrifying films I’ve ever seen.

It’s a shot-for-shot remake of a 1997 Austrian film of the same name, both directed by Michael Haneke. As I understand it, he wanted to remake the film specifically for an American audience, as a response to the kind of ‘torture porn’ that’s become so prevalent, like Saw and Hostel and the slew of others in the genre.

I haven’t seen the original, and didn’t know anything about it going in, but I really enjoyed this one. If you go in expecting a straightforward slasher/thriller, you’re probably going to hate it. The film is an indictment of the way audiences indulge in trashy horror, all while expecting a happy ending in order to feel redeemed and guiltless about the violence in which they just reveled. At the same time, though, Haneke pulls off suspense, horror, and sexual degradation more effectively than many films in the genre, all while keeping 99% of the gore and nudity offscreen. By forcing the viewer to imagine the atrocities being committed, the viewer becomes complicit in the violence.

He also employs just about every horror cliché and then completely undermines the viewer’s expectations. [Spoilers in white] The dog with the ability to sense evil never gets a chance to warn the family, the innocent kid is the first one killed, and none of the family survive. My favorite example of this is the old Chekov’s Gun rule- if you see a gun in the first act, it must be fired by the third. In the beginning of the film, the husband (Tim Roth) and son are setting up their sailboat, and Roth sends his son inside to borrow a knife from the kitchen. The mother (Naomi Watts) hands it over, teasingly saying, “I’d like to see that knife again! Tell your father!” Mundane details like this take on an ominous weight as the film unfolds. We actually don’t see the knife again until the very last scene, in which Watts attempts (vainly) to free herself. Minutes later, she’s killed. It’s intentionally anticlimactic, and Haneke really plays up the frustration the audience feels in not seeing the heroes succeed.

There are a dozen other points that Haneke crafts really well, particularly his use of excruciatingly long takes. In the first half of the film, this serves to heighten tension to almost unbearable levels. I actually wanted to leave at a few points because it was so stressful. In the middle of the film, right after the son is murdered, one of the baddies says to the other “They’re spent,” and actually leave the house for a few hours. At this point, the long takes have the effect of underlining the boredom the killers were feeling. The torture really is entertainment- you long for something exciting to happen, even knowing that it’ll be devastating for the main characters. The meta-storytelling devices, like breaking the fourth wall, the remote control thing, and the killers’ conversation about science fiction at the end occur often enough take you out of the story, and force you to remember that you’re observing this brutality as a source of entertainment, to remind you that on some level, you DO want to see bad things happen to the main characters. The characters are performed well, though, and it’s really easy to identify with them, even within their yuppie bubble.

I could probably write a couple more paragraphs just on the hints he drops for the viewer, and the great use of cinematography and soundtrack. It’s definitely not for everyone, and the people who most appreciate the points he makes are already going to agree with him- he’s kind of preaching to the choir. Still, it’s effective as a satire- I don’t think it’s too far off the mark to put it in the same camp as American Psycho- and it’s really well crafted. I didn’t think beforehand about a sentence with which to conclude this post.

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Entry filed under: Aspect Fellatio, Betty. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Joe  |  April 23, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    ASPECT FELLATIO?

    Reply

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