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Day 39: June 8th, 2010

Funny Games

Takes Hostel & Saw And Turns It Into An Art Form.

A family head up to their vacation home when they are interrupted by two young polite boys who want to play vicious and dangerous games with them. The games result in the cost of people lives, as the family is taken hostage.

This is of course the American remake of the same film from the same director. Not only is it a remake, but it takes the Gus Van Sant route and makes the film a shot for shot remake. The film stars reservoir dog Mr. Orange himself, Tom Roth. The blonde and beautiful Naomi Watts and the always memorable Michael Pitt. Funny Games manages to take the act of violence and make us want to turn our heads. We go see the films like Saw and Hostel wanting to see the disgusting depravity of it all and Michael Haneke uses this to his advantage and play off that notion in the film. We as the audience expect one thing and are given another.

Another film I recently reviewed was Martyrs, which showed us the lead characters and how they had no hope at all of ever surviving. I didn't like that and how it was represented in the film, I had a hard time trying to connect to the characters knowing they were stuck in such a horrible place. I gave the film kudos for making me squirm. Funny Games didn't make me squirm but it did have the same feel for the characters. The moment you know everything is going to end badly is when Paul (Michael Pitt) turns to the camera and talks directly to the audience. This is further proved when the odd yet fascinating scene in which he literally rewinds the film to change the outcome of some events. This tells us that these two characters are in control of everything. Everything they choose to do to the family and everything they choose to let us see. The last shot of the film is very striking.

Michael Haneke knew exactly what he wanted to do with the film and when he first released the original back in 1997 he was quoted as saying "if the film was a success, it would be because audiences had misunderstood the meaning behind it." I can see traces of that in the film. He knows we as a society are desensitized to violence, so he made the film come off as such. But instead of the film being violent, it's merely about violence itself. Every death takes place off screen and when we finally see the image of blood, it's more striking because of the restrain used earlier. Long still camera shots are used to let the audience sit uncomfortably, waiting to cut away to another shot. We are stuck with the images of the characters in their most humiliating moments.

The two antagonists, are young boys dressed in white. Another play on societies conventions of good versus evil, black versus white. They are extremely polite, instead of rude and abrasive. The small things these characters say have such a sinister feel to them, even if they are the most harmless words. Suddenly a line like "I'm sorry, I've been so clumsy, I do apologize" feels as if he is threatening and about to do harm. They are always calm, cool and collective.

Funny Games is something of an experiment and Haneke is the one who is either laughing or disappointed. He knew what he wanted and he got it, whether or not we know of it. I won't bother seeing the original, as reviews state they are identical aside from the obvious (Language and Actors). Funny Games as a film is directed with precision and acted strongly from the entire cast. Even the young boy surprised me. At times I was reminded of Mr. Orange screaming on the floor in agony because Roth uses that same high pitch voice. I know there are people out there who detest the film, which is why it works. If you love it, you're sick, if you hate it, you missed the message. If you think you got the message, you probably didn't. Me? I don't know exactly how I feel about it, I do know I didn't hate or love it. I guess I'm that anomaly in the equation.