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Funny Games (1997)

Not So Funny After All — Written by vepro on 06.01.2013

Due to some personnel changes in our national television Croatian people are able to see a fair amount of European cinematography, and the better part of it, as I see it. Among all this titles available to us now was Michael Haneke’s Funny Games U.S. I watched it for a few times before but viewed it trough yet another time. After remembering what a good movie the remake is I re - watched the original once again and thought about writing a few lines on the topic, being a fan of Haneke’s movies.
To cut the plot short: it is about two young men torturing and eventually killing a family of three, mom, dad and a little boy. Oh yeah, there was a dog as well. Nothing fancy, nothing new… well we’ll see about that.
It is clear from the beginning, if you think about it later that is, that this is a movie about violence, about the violent rupture in normal, whatever that might be, settled life of an upper class family. This manifests itself in the very beginning, just when the title appears and it manifests trough music. When violent, or rather fast, unarticulated music interrupts classical music game that this, or rather what seems to be, perfect family plays on their way to their “little” resort, rich man’s escape from the land of the poor and unprivileged; we can see the first manifestation of violent act in this movie. And it is this one that summarizes the nature of the movie.
It is also clear, through the looks of this family, their taste in music, that they are indeed high class, wealthy, educated people. What gives them away as well is the boat, expensive car and a vacation home the size of average family of six house, surrounded by other wealthy people’s houses of the same type. With its private lake. And they play golf. This is all based on stereotypes of course, but Haneke uses these stereotypes to portrait the sort of people that are not usually the targets of a homicidal killing spree and do not, seemingly, deserve to be tortured; or rather: the sort of people we don’t see tortured in Hollywood cinema. They are partially here because Haneke claims that every one of his films is made to shock the bourgeoisie, which became his battle cry. And that is exactly what both versions of this movie do; one shocks overly secure Austrian bourgeoisie, the other feeds on all American fear of the streets (all American referring of course to WASP-s), or the Others. Violence and bourgeoisie are focal points of Haneke’s work since the beginning, but I feel that here they are pushed to the extreme.
The violators are also not your typical maniacs. They’re polite, sweet talking, slick, educated, have good manners. Well, apart that they are homicidal maniacs with no real, or revealed reason what so ever. Haneke presents few, all of which are contradictory, explanations about the origin of violence. By making them all false he’s implying that it is not about where violence comes from: media, family background, society, childhood, disturbed individual. It is about pure violence, not the graphic movie violence, but real violence. And in this movie everybody is violent, the director, the violators and the viewers. Viewers violence is stressed through breaking the fourth wall but I will not hook on to that part now, as it would require another few pages of theoretical reading, and all the possibilities it opened.
To finish this review, which really covered only a small part of this movies complexity, I think Haneke made a great, interactive and auto – reflexive study of violence in media. In a way it is a typical example of postmodern cinema, because it breaks the convections of moderna, annoys and asks questions rather than gives all the answers. It makes the viewer sick and uneasy, but it makes you think as well. It keeps the familiar narrative structure up to a point just so it can be shattered later and cause the viewers lack of closure, happy ending and sense of not being guilty. It awakes the problems of violence that surrounds us, but gets unnoticed. The nature of violence is distorted in media, and this piece of different cinema shows what violence really is, and what feelings it should awake. Funny Games is an ugly movie but one that really needs to be seen by wider audience to spread its message, hence the remake.

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