Director: Michael Haneke
Starring: Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet
Strangely Brilliant, and Brilliantly Strange
A gentleman arrives at ‘Ann’s doorstep, requesting 4 eggs for her neighbours’ recipe. Before long, there are two gentlemen…And they refuse to leave.
Director Michael Haneke remakes his 1997 film of the same name, allegedly identically duplicating his original film for a wider audience in the west.
‘Funny Games’ breaks down the horror genre into a form which demonstrates how violence is viewed by today’s modern generation.
Having not seen the original, I decided to commit to some research before watching this. Often with a remake, various important aspects are changed to modernise the film to fit into contemporary criteria. In the case of ‘Funny Games U.S’, it is generally accepted that this remake is a “shot for shot” replication, with the exception of some negligible technicalities.
Many have complained and enquired as to why this film was remade, as often the reproduction never fares well against the rudimentary predecessor. However, if one looks closely and pays attention, it is more than evident as to the reasoning.
Haneke is trying to bring about the realisation of the current trend within the horror genre; being the fascination with violence as entertainment.
The horror within this film is more character based, which is what the essence of a scary movie should be about. I’ve never personally been too interested by the generic escapist horror films of the western film industry. There is never generally a sense of realism, and often revolves around a suspension of disbelief creating a vaguely entertaining couple of hours, which for the most part were probably more fun for the special effects team rather than the audience. In the case of ‘Funny Games’ we have a clever twist on the genre, where the fear is composed of character traits rather than actions and special effects, which make for a much more disturbing factor.
The characters personalities are brought about primarily through their facial expressions and their physical mannerisms, making this the only justified remake out there. It is difficult to concentrate on these visual aspects whilst reading subtitles, which is where for natively English-speaking viewers; the aspect would be lost in the original.
These traits are brought about by a great cast; Michael Pitt is quite possibly the star of the film giving us some particularly chilling glares and genuinely frightening idiosyncrasies. Whilst Roth and Watts gave some great performances too, there were some moments where they felt a little unrealistic. However, this does not write them off from the film, their efforts here are to be commended tremendously, for it’s no surprise if either one said they played challenging roles.
There are a lot of one-take scenes; in which there is only one camera angle. Whilst there is an accumulative awareness of a relatively fast pace, the suspended shots are in actuality quite long. This is not initially realised, being that these prolonged shots are totally absorbing and bring you directly into the film, and in parts making you feel like you are actually there with the characters. This aspect is scrutinised by the film though, rhetorically questioning emotions you might feel whilst watching the film. Albeit, certain aspects of the film feel distinctly realistic, you are often reminded that this film is entertainment, but are also asked if it is entertaining.
In the opening sequence, these extended angles also give a somewhat visually relaxed and light-hearted feeling, which ultimately add to any discontent that might be felt during certain events of the film.
In spite of this, these protracted shots are a clear indication of why some audiences might turn off and become bored. Furthermore, certain audiences might be dissatisfied that this is not a typically predictable film. The only technically established connection is with Pitt’s character, which for fans of escapism, this is less than gratifying. Though, for viewers with a more sacrificial mindset, this is greatly pleasing.
Another notably interesting feature to this film; is the use of two musical genres for the soundtrack. Classical, and Thrash Metal. These two genres directly reference the characteristics of Pitt’s character; whilst one represents his physical demeanour, the other represents his mentality.
The classical music also refers to Roth, Watts and Devon Gearhart. Gearhart is the son of Roth and Watts, who for his age gives a brilliantly realistic performance.
From this point on it’s quite grandiose to present a vague insight into the remaining elements of this film without spoiling anything too much.
This is a film full of surprises being more of a thriller than a horror film, though ultimately it’s hard to think anything other than “this is strange”. It seems to be a film purposefully orientated around affecting mindsets and satirically sniping at the modern horror genre.
It’s hard to place a specific niche here, for it is somewhere in the middle of a thriller and a horror, which is quite possibly why it is still struggling to break even. Unfortunately I am unable to find the gross revenue for the original film, though it is fair to say chances are it made profit due to the several awards it won.
This is most definitely not a film for an average slasher/splatter horror fan, for its objectives will simply be neglected or misunderstood. Regardless, this film is still worth a view by anyone with a serious interest in film.
I rate this 9 out of 10, for it’s very captivating and intriguing, with well designed characters and a great script.
Haneke and his crew have done a superb job on this, and based on this remake of a film I’ve not seen, I look forward to digging up and watching his various other projects.