Funny Games (2007)
Rated – R
Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt
This post contains spoilers.
First and foremost, you probably hate this movie, and usually I try to defend a movie that I thoroughly like but in this case I can’t. It’s only natural to hate this film so there’s no point to defend it. It’s heartless, gruesome, and leaves an angry, empty feeling after it’s all over. Who wants to watch a movie that just pisses you off to no end?
But there is a point and Haneke is simply too good of a director to make a poor movie. Every little quirk and moment that pisses you off is what Haneke is trying to point out. Just take the opening scene when the happy, wealthy family is driving back to their home while listening to opera. Everything is pleasant and it could remind you of a moment from your childhood when your family were on the road on a beautiful afternoon. And then the death metal music BLASTS with the title Funny Games over the shot of the family. The family doesn’t hear the music that’s causing us to cover our ears. It’s strange. It’s unnerving. It’s a hint at things to come and how us, as the audience, are really separated from the characters in the movie.
What happens for the rest of the movie feels like a typical home invasion, psychological thriller, but Funny Games is much more than that. Two young men, played by Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt, appear at the family’s home. They’re kind, but a bit too kind, and definitely have a creepy way to them. Anna (Watts) wants them to leave, but they respond to her by saying she’s being rude. Anna wants George (Roth) to kick them out of the house, but he allows the men to explain themselves. Anna lets him know that it doesn’t matter what reason she has, he should do what she wants and if she wants them out of the house, he should kick them out. George should’ve listened because one thing leads to another and George winds up with a broken kneecap.
There are things that Haneke is trying to point out to us as the audience. One thing is how we’re so used to seeing these sort of movies before that we expect certain things to happen. They kill their dog from the get-go, so they’re really bad men. But at the end of the day, at least someone has to survive and kill the bad guys, right? Haneke shows you a movie where the bad guys don’t get caught and they don’t let their victims slip through their fingertips. Even when they do make a classic error and Anna shoots one of them, Michael Pitt is able to rewind the film to prevent that happening. Yes, he actually stop the film you’re watching and rewinds it. This is why you hate this movie.
Haneke is also commenting how we’re so immune to violence in movies. With all of these sub-horror genres, do we even flinch anymore at the sight of blood? So he pushes the envelope by first killing off the family dog and then killing off the small boy. I bet you can’t name too many films that kills off the dog and the child in the same movie, but Funny Games isn’t like any movie you’ve seen before. Like you needed another reason to hate this movie.
You will be disturbed by this film, or at least I hope you are. I also think that’s what Haneke is trying to do; to make a film that is so twisted and demented even from all of the horror movies people watch every year. Can we possibly be scared anymore? There are also a few moments when Michael Pitt’s character breaks the fourth-wall and speaks directly into the camera. While this certainly wasn’t necessary, Haneke doesn’t want his point to go over anyone’s head. We’re all rooting for the family to survive and to escape, and even when there really doesn’t seem like any chance for them to do so, we still hope they make it out alive. But Haneke just plays with us by dangling that carrot in front of our faces before yanking it away.
Funny Games is not a film you’ll most likely enjoy, but it’s undoubtedly powerful and thought-provoking. It’ll remain in your thoughts for days after you watch it, and that’s the whole experience of watching it. You’re forced to think of what you just watched and you’re supposed to question why Haneke made such a film. If not, then Haneke’s message did not make an impact on you like it should have. Instead, you’ll just follow the herd of sheep to the next horror screening, as long as you know what to expect.