$2.50 Reviews: Funny Games (2007)

$2.50 Reviews:

Funny Games

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Funny Games is a shot for shot remake of the 1997 Austrian film of the same name. Directed by Michael Haneke, the man who directed the original, Funny Games takes place at a lake house. A close, tight-knit family is arriving for a vacation, and after a while, are visited by two young men. These men just want some eggs, but after a couple of accidents, the family begins to suspect that they are playing games with the family. Soon after, the family becomes imprisoned in their house by the two men, who wish to make a bet with them. The men bet that the family won't make it through the night. The family is forced to bet with the opposing view.

'I'm in your house. Breaking your fourth wall.'

Even though the plot seems simple, there is quite a lot going on beneath the surface, which is why I feel a lot of people aren't going to like Funny Games. It is, in essence, a movie that is taking shots at its audience, at least, the members of the audience who enjoy watching violent films. It's a movie with a message, but it's only their in a subtle manner. The film isn't going to beat it into you, but instead it will hope that you pay close enough attention to get it. As sad as it is, the film taken strictly at face value, while still decent, isn't really all that interesting to watch.

In fact, if you don't notice the little nuances of the film, and if you miss the point it's trying to get across, you might end up extremely frustrated with what you end up watching. There are a few hints throughout, like the breaking of the fourth wall done by one of the villains, but these things can often go unnoticed, especially if you don't pay attention. They do get more apparent by the end of the film, but I have a feeling that if you hadn't noticed by then, you might have already shut the film off.

Subtlety is the key word of the film, both in its message and in its execution. Despite being one of the more disturbing films I can remember seeing, the violence and brutality all happen off-screen. Since the mind often makes a darker vision than what can be portrayed on-screen, this technique ends up being effective in not alienating the audience it is preaching to. Unlike The Condemned, which had a very similar message, but executed it in a way that chastised its audience, Funny Games manages to stay clear of doing that.

Characters-wise, the film does a good job of making them relatable, and allowing you to feel for them. It almost feels as though you are co-conspiring with the villains. You are playing the game along with them, so to speak, and you get empathetic towards the family being tormented. You also feel an incredible hatred towards the two young men. They are arrogant, upper-class characters, who have a politeness that is insufferable. You wish you could jump into the TV and have a go at them. This is how villains should be portrayed. They aren't stereotypical 'bad' characters, and actually end up performing far more effectively without such labels.

He's a doctor, it's okay...

They are also well acted, allowing you to see into the depths of their characters as well. It's the same with the family, with the only real low-point being the acting of the child. The boy is played by Devon Gearhart, and while he does show emotional range, it seems to me that such emotion came too quickly for the situations presented. The more restrained members of the family are quite well acted, with Naomi Watts playing the wife, and Tim Roth playing the husband. I do take slight issue with Roth's character though, as it seems he didn't actually try all that hard when faced with the adversities of the film. One could argue this is due to the fact that his knee ends up being broken, but it still seemed to me like he could have done more for his family.

I have a feeling a lot of people are going to dislike Funny Games for the same reason I really enjoyed it. It's a movie that deals almost entirely in the subtleties it presents. It manages to get its point across without being up-front about it. It has well-developed characters, all of which have differing personality traits. The villains of the story are not stereotypical, but instead are polite-as-could-be young men. Funny Games isn't always the easiest film to watch, but it's one that'll be hard to forget once you do.

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Well, not only does it appease Julian, but me as well! Another one of my favourite films reviewed by you. :D I didn't notice any errors either.

Though, after reading your review, I'm starting to question whether or not I actually caught on to those subtleties... I do know I enjoyed it, but perhaps I missed a few things? Which is one thing I've come to appreciate with your reviews, you generally bring points and observations to the table that I had previously missed. Enhances the experience.

The first memory that comes to mind with this film is the breaking of the fourth wall... when it's done well, it's just... fantastic.

To be honest, I don't think this film is actually very deep or even that clever, and as for subtlety that went completely out of the window with the 'rewind' scene. Which was absolutely fucking stupid, in my opinion. In fact the more I think about Funny Games the less I like it. The message simply doesn't work for me at all, and I think there's a difference between using subtelety to make the message more of an undercurrent and it just being vague to non-existent, and I feel Funny Games falls into the latter camp. But seriously, fuck the 'rewind' scene. It's fine breaking the fourth wall, but that was just awful.

That's all just my opinion though, and the review actually made it pretty clear why you liked it, although I heavily disagree about the message. I honestly don't think there is one, and if there is it's lazily tacked on.

zombiesinc:
Well, not only does it appease Julian, but me as well! Another one of my favourite films reviewed by you. :D I didn't notice any errors either.

Not even the over-use of the word 'fairly'. (Hint: I didn't use it at all. :p)

Well, the movie might have a message, but ironically it seems to play out like it's using this message as an excuse for a display of sadism in favor of shock value. Still wonder if I should watch it though.

Also, you forgot to close the single inverted comma in the caption of the 1st pic :P

FargoDog:
To be honest, I don't think this film is actually very deep or even that clever, and as for subtlety that went completely out of the window with the 'rewind' scene. Which was absolutely fucking stupid, in my opinion. In fact the more I think about Funny Games the less I like it. The message simply doesn't work for me at all, and I think there's a difference between using subtelety to make the message more of an undercurrent and it just being vague to non-existent, and I feel Funny Games falls into the latter camp. But seriously, fuck the 'rewind' scene. It's fine breaking the fourth wall, but that was just awful.

That's all just my opinion though, and the review actually made it pretty clear why you liked it, although I heavily disagree about the message. I honestly don't think there is one, and if there is it's lazily tacked on.

When I first watched it, I didn't like the 'rewind' scene either. In fact, I pretty much thought what you did. Then I thought about it a bit while trying to fall asleep. I came up with the 'rewind' scene actually being one of the more important scenes of the movie. Seeing as how I took the film as basically an "anti-violence in the media" campaign, this scene made sense. See, at that point, you are hoping along with the characters, that she shoots the guy. The 'rewind' scene is basically taking a direct shot at the audience, saying "Oh, you expected that to happen, didn't you. Well, too bad, 'cause it didn't." You then realize that there isn't any hope left for the family.

Sinclose:
Well, the movie might have a message, but ironically it seems to play out like it's using this message as an excuse for a display of sadism in favor of shock value. Still wonder if I should watch it though.

You definitely should.

Also, you forgot to close the single inverted comma in the caption of the 1st pic :P

Biggest. Gripe. Ever. It's fixed now though. :p

Marter:

When I first watched it, I didn't like the 'rewind' scene either. In fact, I pretty much thought what you did. Then I thought about it a bit while trying to fall asleep. I came up with the 'rewind' scene actually being one of the more important scenes of the movie. Seeing as how I took the film as basically an "anti-violence in the media" campaign, this scene made sense. See, at that point, you are hoping along with the characters, that she shoots the guy. The 'rewind' scene is basically taking a direct shot at the audience, saying "Oh, you expected that to happen, didn't you. Well, too bad, 'cause it didn't." You then realize that there isn't any hope left for the family.

But that makes even less sense. The film makes out that the two kids know you're watching, and that's it. When they start to actually mess with the reality of the film then it just doesn't work. I can accept almost anything in a film, as long as the film sets the rules and doesn't break them. With the rewind scene, they broke any kind of immersion or any desire for me to give a damn about the characters, because any emotional attachment I had to the film was completely redundant when it could just change the playing field whenever it wanted.

If they were trying to get an anti-violence message across, it doesn't work, because by so blatantly breaking the immersion with the rewind scene I didn't care what happened to anyone in the film. Why should I? The film-makers obviously didn't. They were too busy trying to make some justification for what they were putting on screen.

I'm sorry if I come off as just rude and obnoxious about this, because I absolutely respect your feelings and your opinion on whatever film you review.

My late English teacher once said that if you hate a character, the author (or in this case writer and director) meant it that way and the book (film) was a success. I love any film that boils my blood and there was no shortage of boiling when I watched this movie. Q.E.D I love Funny Games.

Also, it's worth mentioning that the U.S. trailer is pure gold.

AvsJoe:
*snip*

I didn't like the trailer all that much. Didn't really make me want to see the film.

AvsJoe:
Also, it's worth mentioning that the U.S. trailer is pure gold.

I absolutely loved the trailer.

I actually didn't know this was a remake of the Austrian film until very recently, although I may have heard about this some time ago, it just didn't stick. Anyways, they're exactly the same... but even so I prefer the American trailer. Likely because I am more familiar with both the characters and (obviously) the language, which allows for a more immersed experience.

I remember catching the last half of this movie on Cinemax a few months ago. Unfortunately, when I realized that, I had to change the channel. Silly rule of mine; if a movie I have not seen is on TV, I change the channel if it's already started. But, from what I saw it seemed like a movie I could watch.

Oh, and great review, Marter, but you already know that.

superbatranger:
I remember catching the last half of this movie on Cinemax a few months ago. Unfortunately, when I realized that, I had to change the channel. Silly rule of mine; if a movie I have not seen is on TV, I change the channel if it's already started. But, from what I saw it seemed like a movie I could watch.

That seems like a fine rule to me. It's what I do as well. :p

Oh, and great review, Marter, but you already know that.

I do, but it's always nice to hear it from others. =D

Marter....I fucking love you! ^-^

This was one of your best reviews (in my opinion, though I may be fairly biased) and an absolute delight to read. I'm glad you enjoyed it and, as Zombie said before me, I am appeased.

In good conscious, "Funny Games" is a movie that I could not recommend to a single person. But it is one the more remarkable, genre-busting movies I've ever seen. And I'm more than happy to find a thread on this film just so I can join a "Victim's Club" for those of us who managed to see it.

It took me about 5 days to finish the movie. I had to stop it, wait 24 hours to recover, and then pick up where I left off. Which must make me normal because even Haneken said "If you watch the film all the way through, there's something wrong with you".

But I don't want to dwell on the reasons not to like the film. There's too many of them. What is to like is the sheer balls it took to make the movie. Going after Hollywood is one thing. Going after movie conventions is another, and going after movies that glorify violence is another. But this movie goes after IT'S OWN AUDIENCE because (for worse) we're so ingratiated to those conventional, awful films. So we are the one's who are actually tortured by the film (and I clearly don't mean that in the "Howard the Duck" sense.) We are deliberately, mentally tortured by the filmmaker, and I find that...challenging as a movie goer.

The subtleties that Marter mentions are a huge key to the torture we endure. The off-screen violence, the lengthy, still shot scenes where there's no dialog for minutes, the lack of any motive... exacerbate the situation in your mind deliberately creating additional self-inflicted mental torture! This is a horror film really.

And I'll be honest, I want to hate it. But that hate would be completely misdirected and Haneke knows it. Again, I wouldn't recommend this film to anybody. It does have some minimal social commentary, but nothing 99.99% of civilization doesn't already know. But it was an experience to sit through (in five sittings) and a challenging film as an audience member.

Mostly I'm just happy to meet fellow sufferers.

I liked the movie until...


This was probably a part of the message I missed, but I liked everything else about the movie. Hell, I liked the rest of the 4th wall breaking, just not that.

 

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