Funny games (Michael Hanneke, 1997)

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Funny Games, directed by Michael Haneke (1997).

Score: Interesting, but I can guarantee it’s not going to be what you expected.

Every review I read about this movie said it was a horrible experience, so sadistic and claustrophobic you couldn’t even breathe, but I had also heard it was a reflection on the genre of gore porn and broke the fourth wall and yada, so I watched more for the second feature than the first. I am lucky or unlucky enough to share my life with someone who genuinely enjoys gorn and I have seen enough of it here on Tumblr to actually not care anymore so I decided to watch it.

I watched the original version from 1997 in German but I’m told if you watch the 2007 version in English you will watch exactly the same. I like your concept of remaking something for American audiences, Mr. Haneke. Both films tell the story of an upper-class family who go to spend a holiday to a house they own by a lake in a residential neighbourhood. When they’ve been there for just a few hours a weird young man appears asking to borrow some eggs and don’t ask me how he and his friend end up locking up and torturing the family but they do. If you want to experience the film to the fullest I suggest you stop reading here.

***SPOILERS***

I have the slight feeling that Mr. Haneke was scolding me for wanting to watch some gorn, which is funny coming from someone who doesn’t have issues showing people doing fucked up things in his movies, and if you don’t believe me go watch The piano teacher.

The reflection on the genre is just that. Most of the torture is psychological torture, which is exceptionally well written, especially in the way it escalates almost imperceptibly from weird guy asking for eggs to full blown abuse. Everything happens off-screen, and once they force the mother to remove their clothes just to have her put them on again. When these things happen, the protagonist torturer looks into the camera and actually tells the viewer things like: ‘You thought we were going to rape her, huh? You’re a dirty weirdo.’ It even goes to the point when the mother shoots one of the torturers with their own shotgun and the other one grabs a remote from the sofa and rewinds the scene because that’s not what usually happens in these films. They do shoot the kid and after that there is an 11-minute still shot of the aftermath, which I thought was a great way to convey the feeling. When something awful happens, you get that feeling that time goes on but you can’t, or won’t move.

So the special thing about the movie is that it plays with the viewer’s expectations, especially a viewer who is familiar with the genre, but it could have been done in a more imaginative way, not so straight. More scenes like the one where they make the woman undress and nothing happens, for instance. The plot tends to swamp and stop moving, and the dialogue is ‘hurr dur, we’re evil just because and we’re going to torture you!’, and the family goes ‘no, please, let us go, we will give you money!’ over and over again, and the film is only 90 minutes long.

Personally I don’t feel I should be ashamed of watching gorn, and I don’t think it’s unethical at all, but that’s just me. If people don’t want to accept that it’s in their nature to be maybe a little voyeuristic at times and that’s okay, they can suit themselves. I insist that I find the message quite funny coming from someone who, a few years later, directed a film that features a scene where a woman goes to a peep show cabin and takes tissues out of the wastepaper basket to smell them.

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