#207 Funny Games

(1997, Michael Haneke)

“You’re on their side, aren’t you? So who will you bet with?”

Funny Games. Oh good, another comedy, and potentially one about a family sitting around and playing board games. Sounds like a lovely film. Wait, why’s that man being hit with a golf club? Why’s that woman being tied up with duct tape? Oh god, what is this film? What have I done? Seems that Funny Games is not a happy comedy about board games and is, in fact, a movie about pointless, unprovoked violence. Lovely!

So, we have a wealthy German family. The dad is Georg (Ulrich Muhe), the mum is Ana (Susanne Lothar) and they have a son called Georgy (Stefan Clapczynski). They’re on holiday in a really pretty lakehouse out in the countryside. They get visited by a young man called Jerry (Frank Giering), who says he’s a friend of their neighbour. After requesting some eggs and then causing havoc with them, his friend (Arno Frisch) arrives, and they reveal their names to really be Peter and Paul respectively. They’re also a little creepy, and things soon take a turn for the worse…

Funny Games is one of those many art films that examines the pointlessness of violence in the media, and unlike, say, Videodrome, this is actually good.

This is a very postmodern thriller movie. Just to highlight the pointlessness of the movie’s events, the character of Paul is very self-aware, and knows that he’s in a movie. He often abuses and plays with the conventions of the thriller and horror genres just to ensure that he’s successful in his crimes. He frequently addresses the audience, asking us to bet on whether or not the family will live and smirking at the camera at times.

It’s this self-aware nature that makes this movie so interesting. Overall, the movie is a conventional thriller, where two murderers break into a family home, torture them and ultimately kill them in gruesome ways, but this self-awareness constantly messes with our expectations, and it makes things even more unpredictable. When Paul realises he can rewind the movie if he makes a mistake, we realise that all bets are off and there’s little chance of escape.

The movie is also incredibly tense throughout. This is how horror should be, even though this isn’t necessarily a horror movie. From the moment Peter walks in through the door asking for eggs, you know something’s up with him. He’s suspiciously wearing white gloves and is constantly awkward. I felt uncomfortable with him on screen even though he hadn’t done anything.

Michael Haneke has done a great job with the movie’s pacing and cinematography to make a movie that is uncomfortable to watch at times and will have you on the edge of the seat. Credit also needs to be given to the excellent acting from the entire cast. The family have a believable relationship, and their reactions to the duo’s “funny games” are realistic. The duo themselves are a suitable level of creepy. Their obviously false politeness is unnerving, but not once do they overplay their actions.

It’s also impressive that this uncomfortable tone is maintained without the use of much blood or gore. We do see blood on screen, but never actively witness any kind of bloody murder, just the aftermath, and it’s always framed in a way that never shows much detail. For a movie so big on commenting on violence in the media, it’s not a particularly violent movie overall.

I actually have to applaud Haneke for this too, because it takes a certain level of skill to make a movie feel like it’s throwing violent scenes at us constantly when in fact it really isn’t. The tension carries the whole movie, and there are barely any special effects. And yet it’s scared me more than any recent horror film has.

I have little bad to say about Funny Games. It was a fantastic thriller that raised questions about the nature of the thriller itself, and did so in a way that was tense, exciting and uncomfortable in all the right ways.

Starring Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering & Stefan Clapczynski
Written by Michael Haneke
Produced by Veit Heiduschka
Cinematography by Jurgen Jurges
Edited by Andreas Prochaska

Favourite Scene: During the first murder, we see nothing. Instead, Paul goes off to make a sandwich and we hear the sounds of struggling from the other room. Surprisingly effective.
Scene That Bugged Me: Following the first murder, there’s an extended shot of the living room for much longer than was seemingly necessary.

Watch it if: You’re bored of gory horror but still want something creepy
Avoid it if: You’re a bit squeamish


Posted on August 10, 2013, in 1990s, Germany, Horror, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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