From the opening to closing credits the film plays games with you and eventually you realize that the actual villain is the director and you are the victim.
Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is a shot by shot and line by line remake of his own 1997 film of the same title only with a different cast and with English dialog instead of German. Even the set of the house had the exact same proportions as the original house did. You might ask why a director would choose to remake his own film? If I had to guess it would be that many Americans skipped the original version because we shamefully tend to avoid subtitles. It is a mentally exhausting art house thriller about strangers abusing a family but after watching it you feel like you are the one being abused.
Funny Games begins with a family taking a trip to their vacation home on Long Island. As George (Tim Roth) and Ann (Naomi Watts) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) approached the house they stop by the neighbors place to see if they will lend a hand to launch their boat. They noticed that the neighbors were acting a bit out of the ordinary as they hesitated to help. Also the husband and wife did not recognize the other men dressed in white that accompanied the neighbors but it was only enough to notice and not be alarmed.
The neighbor comes over as promised but brings along a gentleman named Paul (Michael Pitt) who he claims is the son of a business associate of the neighbor. George still found the behavior of the neighbor to be a little off. As Ann is preparing dinner for the family the two men dressed in white show up at the door. Paul introduces himself as well as his friend Peter (Brady Corbet) even he keeps addressing him as Tom and eventually fatty.
Although the two men are very polite you get the sense that something is very off about them. This begins to show when they ask to test out one of George’s golf clubs. Ann is very put off by them and asks them to leave. That is when the games begin but none of them are funny.
Paul and Peter being to terrorize the family with ridiculous games such as making a bet with them that they will all be dead by morning as long as the family bets they will be alive. It is during this bet that something profound happens. Paul turns to the camera and begins to talk to us to see which side of the bet we are on. It is important because it blatantly tells the audience that this film is playing games with them as well.
Without giving away any more spoilers, I will try to be vague as possible on this topic. There is a scene near the end of the film that is very controversial that will have you either cheering or booing. By the end of the film you realize that the film tries to find out the difference between reality and non-reality.
Michael Haneke was quoted saying “Anyone who leaves the cinema doesn’t need the film, and anybody who stays does.” on his original version of Funny Games. The opening credits makes it clear that what you think you are in store for is not what you will find when the classical music is abruptly interrupted by loud death metal music. After finishing the film I can understand what Haneke was trying to say, it is definitely not for everyone. Drawing some comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is easy to do based on the perverse violence that resides in both.
The performances from the whole cast were astounding. Naomi Watts is particularly good as the frantic wife whose family is being terrorized. Tim Roth compliments Watts well and lets her do most of the heavy lifting. One interesting note is that Roth said that his role abused him enough that he will never watch the film. Michael Pitt is downright creepy and unsettling as the main villain.
Funny Games is as unique as it is distributing, both which the film strived for and succeed in. I appreciated the film more than I enjoyed it. However, I am not sure if the film was even meant to be enjoyed but rather experienced instead. From the opening to closing credits the film plays games with you and eventually you realize that the actual villain is the director and you are the victim. You will not find one shred of comfort in Funny Games but that is the point.