Thursday, October 30, 2014

Funny Games (2007) 3 of 4

** Entire review contains SPOILERS**

This is a home-invasion movie with a pedigree: it's Michael Haneke's own remake of his Austrian film of 1997.  Haneke is a world-renowned, confrontational director known for such films as The Piano Teacher, Cache, and The White Ribbon.
In this U.S. version, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play Ann and George, a well-off couple embarking on a lakeside holiday with their young son.  The vacation turns into a nightmare, when their home is invaded by two nihilistic, sadistic, white-gloved bastards calling themselves Peter and Paul.  As the two nominal villains destroy the lives of this family, the film indicts the audience for watching, even breaking the fourth wall at times.
This may sound sophomoric in description, but it's done with so much craft and conviction that it's tough to dismiss the film (if you're the type of person who'd sit down to watch in the first place).  I was most reminded of Natural Born Killers, but I think it's more effective: NBK game me a headache, while Funny Games makes its points because it's enjoyable.  And while there have now been a number of movies that examine why we watch horror and violence (Videodrome, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Scream), well -- we keep watching violent movies, don't we?

The sequence I'll spotlight is Ann's forced disrobing.  Naomi Watts is an attractive woman, and when the captors work the conversation around to her figure, I felt warm anticipation (in my defense, noone had been killed at this point).  I wondered how far this would go, how hot it would get.  Would she show her tits?  I hope they show her getting undressed.  I'm glad the kid has a bag over his head so we can concentrate on the sexy stuff for a while.
Well, it wasn't sexy.  We don't see her strip, and although she spends much of the film in bra and panties, I wasn't titillated, in fact it was pretty awful to see her victimized.  The filmmakers effectively pull the rug here: for example, the panties are boyish and functional,a kind no one would describe as "lingerie."  It's simply pathetic.
Before I get too self-congratulatory, I do recommend this film about two pricks who beat, maim, and slaughter an innocent family.
If nothing else, it's a conversation starter.  The killers repeatedly break the fourth wall, asking our opinion of the events, and there's even a scene when Ann gets the upper hand, only for one of the criminals to pick up the remote and rewind the entire scene so it can play out differently.

The scene on the boat is even more confusing, but I think the two are talking about themselves as if they are fictional characters.  Funny Games isn't as densely packed as Donnie Darko, but like that film it plays with fiction vs. reality.
As for the gloves, we're reminded of mimes or waiters, but a few days later I made an association more fitting, considering Haneke's an Americaphobe: Mickey Mouse.
To me, the meaning of the film is there in the first scene as the family drives into the mountains, playing trivia concerning classical music.  Suddenly the music changes to punk as the title pops onto the screen in big red letters: "FUNNY GAMES."  This is what you paid for!  You came for mayhem, not to see a nice family doing nice things.
I believe it's also asking why: Why do these people have beautiful lives while others are starving or being tortured or wanting for medical care in other parts of the world?  There's an element of random chance that they are in these circumstances and not those, and given that fact, chance can also put them suddenly into hell, and it does.  The boy killers mockingly claim childhood abuse to "explain" their actions, but it's more likely they've spent too much time pondering the unfairness of life and have jumped off an ethical cliff.

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