Directed by: Michael Haneke
Written by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet
Funny Games is a brilliant deconstruction of movie violence from writer/director Michael Haneke. The movie is actually a remake of Haneke’s 1997 Austrian film of the same name. I have not seen the original but apparently little has changed in the American update. This fact alone should put the idea to rest that this is a deliberate response to “torture porn”. The film doesn’t attack “Hostel”, it attacks our desensitized views of violence (and yes it can be argued that Hostel is a guilty party).
The movie begins with a small family, on the road to their vacation home, composed of Ann (Watts), the mother, George (Roth), the father and the son, named after his dad. Not long after their arrival, two strange young men begin to harass them. The two young men go by several names throughout the film, the most consistent of which is Peter (Corbet) and Paul (Pitt). The “games” begin, and soon the family is fearing for their lives. I don’t want to give away much more than that.
The acting is pitch-perfect, with standout performances from Naomi Watts and the extremely creepy Michael Pitt. Also, Tim Roth gets back to his Reservoir Dogs roots by screaming in pain a lot. There is no weak link, in fact only strong ones, in the small cast. Even the small boy, played by Devon Gearhart, is 100% believable. This believability is very important because the movies point relies on realism.
The entire movie, from beginning to end, seems like it could have actually happened. This is terrifying. Haneke’s point is to ground the violence in reality. This way we can appreciate how terrible it is. In the end, violence on screen is not so different than in real life. So, if people go see movies specifically to see human beings tortured and killed, what does that say about them? The interesting thing is, there is pretty much no violence shown (only one scene is an exception), only character reactions and blood splatter. Surprisingly, this does not take away from the horror or suspense, the movie even benefits from this approach.
Funny Games is an excellent film, that begs us to reflect on ourselves. Superb acting and masterfully crafted, the film is a must see for the movie goer who wants more out of a story than entertainment. From the startling opening credits to the unsettling end credits, Funny Games is always (almost) unbearably suspenseful.