Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Cinematographer: Darius Khondji
by Jon Cvack
I usually put on my Netflix movies after I’m done writing, around 11pm. With my girlfriend gone for three weeks on a shoot, I’ve been enjoying playing the movies a bit louder and being able to choose what we watch (though she would have liked this film). While I was fine for the first half, enamored by Haneke’s to examine minute details, set up a camera, and let the scenes play out accordingly, I ended up turning it off the second day. The film is sad, hopeless, and so violent that I couldn’t stomach watching it alone, especially on a Sunday before I started a whole new week up, opting for Frankenheimer’s Ronin instead, electing to finish Funny Games the next morning during the bright and sunny morning hours in Santa Monica.
I don’t recall when I saw the first film, but it was long enough ago where I didn’t remember much other than that Paul (Michael Pitt) addressing the camera and even grabbing a remote and rewinds the scene. This is one of the first home invasion films ever created in the modern era - in which movies like The Strangers, The Purge, You’re Next, Straw Dogs (remake), Eden Lake, etc. ushered in a new horror sub-genre that was left off with Torture Porn. They typically involve at least two individuals, usually more, stuck in a house, as a group of individuals attempt to break in and murder them all. What makes it interesting is the complete departure from the supernatural, not so much interested in its father’s fascination with blood and gore so much as being stuck in a room while listening to your loved ones being killed.
The original Funny Games came out in 1997, with the shot-for-shot remake arriving a decade later. I suppose you could argue that Scream was one of the first 2.0 home invasion films (1.0 being Last House on the Left and Straw Dogs by in the 70s), yet it was also a crossroads movie, splitting between the 00s torture porn, and taking a much more circuitous route to Home Invasion, eventually arriving about a decade later, setting up Funny Games and its success. Interesting enough, just as Scream operated within the 90s post-modern milieu, and given that the ‘07 version is a shot for shot remake, I was awed by the parallels between Scream and the original Funny Games, in how both address the audience directly, either with Scream’s endless film within a film self-reference and Funny Games’ direct address of the viewing medium (that is, television, VCRs, etc.), where Paul keeps on addressing the audience, mentioning how we know the structure of things and where it’s going, until he finally takes a remote control and rewinds the actual film. Both force the viewer to realize they’re watching a film, which made Scream all the more frightening, and was just kind of interesting in Funny Games, leaning me more toward getting pulled out of the film than providing engaging commentary (which it did, just not that much).
That’s Haneke’s voice, though. At least his early stuff. From 71 Fragments in Chronological Order to Cache, his films are about how video and media operate in the world, with Benny’s Video offering the best analysis in exploring a boy who’s free time is consumed with television, where both films and television portray violence throughout the day, culminating in him killing a girl while filming the entire event. While neither Peter nor Paul film anything in Funny Games, they are aware of us watching them and what they do. In what would eventually become the genre’s norm - Peter and Paul walked us through how they were going against the norms. The family is going to be killed, unless they accomplish the near impossible in escaping, which would essentially rely on the old deus ex machina, meaning the film would break its own characters’ rules by going against the norms of popular narrative. Still, I thought maybe, some way, somehow, Anna (Naomi Watts) would escape as it felt unbearably depressing to think otherwise. To know you’re watching a film where all of these decent regular people were going to be inevitably butchered for no reason, and done in a way that was completely objective, all while Haneke just letting the camera roll as the action unfolded. Yet it’s with this exact action that I got pulled into the story.
Stay tuned for Part 2...
BELOW: Be kind please rewind
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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