Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review: Funny Games

Funny Games is an Austrian film, directed in 1997 by Michael Haneke. It's simply about a couple of oddballs who fool a trusting family into letting them into their home, only to terrorize them and torture them, both physically and psychologically. What starts out as a small argument leads to Paul smashing Georg's (Dad's) kneecap in with one of his own golf clubs, which Paul will often refer to as "Georg's fault for slapping him" (he of course fails to mention this was a result of Paul telling him to "suck his balls").

But it's obvious the two (Paul and Peter) planned to do this from the beginning. They were just waiting for the family to give them an "excuse" to do it. Paul bets the family that they will be dead within the next 12 hours. The frustrating part, as an audience, is that the two have nearly nothing to threaten the family with, save a golf club; no guns, no knives, no Ring of Power, no Force, etc. The phone is destroyed, and they live in a remote location on a lake. For quite some time they aren't even tied up. But Georg is helpless because he can't walk due to his now busted knee, and every time Anna, the wife, makes a move they threaten to hurt their son. For the most part, the duo uses the child's safety as a motivation to get the couple to go along with their games, like threatening to beat him unless Georg orders his wife to strip. Every time you think the family will make a comeback, our hopes are immediately crushed one way or the other. In what seems to finally be the turnaround of the movie, a high-tension "hide and seek" scene between the child and Paul when he escapes, ends up right back where he was before. They even leave the house and disappear entirely for what seems a couple of hours, giving them a chance to escape just for kicks (they don't). On a side note, when they return, the shot of the golfball rolling through the hallway is brilliantly done; the look on Georg's face is captivating. As a matter of fact, the movie outright cheats us; at one point Anna manages to grab a shotgun and shoots and kills Peter right on the spot. So Paul grabs a remote control and rewinds the scene to before she grabbed the shotgun and prevents her from doing it the second time around. Upon seeing this, any remaining hope for the family's survival is entirely evaporated: they are screwed. 

Of course, the question is "why". Why would they torture, let alone kill complete strangers? Georg asks Paul this very question, and his simple response is "Why not?". Although this is a very aggravating answer, it does answer they question. The two of them are psychopaths, and that's all there is to it. They don't need a "reason"other than the fact they enjoy it. No matter how many times the family pleas and begs and offers them money, the two never blink an eye at the thought of inflicting pain on them. When asked why they don't just kill them already and get it over with, Peter replies "You can't forget the entertainment value." 

An even better question to ask is why would I, or anyone else, want to watch a film like this; one that you know from the start will end so horribly and violently. I don't even know for sure myself, to be honest with you (I will admit I have a weak spot for movies starring psychopaths, however). But I know as sickening and stomach-churning as this film is, this is real life. People like to see others suffer, even if it means making it happen with their own hands. Just because there's no method or reasoning doesn't make it unrealistic; it's in fact quite the opposite. In my Michael Caine voice: "Some people just want to see the world burn." The same goes with the ending; just because the film doesn't end on a "and they lived happily ever after" note doesn't make it full of crap either. If you don't like that, pity. You can stick to your Nicholas Sparks movies. I'll choose this over that bullcrap any day.