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In this English-language remake of a deconstruction in the way violence is portrayed in the media, a family settles into its vacation home, which happens to be the next stop for a pair of young, articulate, white-gloved serial killers on an excursion through the neighborhood.
Funny Games is a movie I've been following for some time now. And would you believe it, it's a remake. It's quite rare that I want a remake to be made, but in this case it doesn't quite fall under the dreaded "remake" headline. For starters, German writer/director Michael Haneke has returned as both writer and director, and according to what I've read it's a shot-by-shot remake which means that he felt it was good enough the first time around to not change anything. Also, we've got Tim Roth and Naomi Watts appearing in it. Two very talented actors who have a long resume of great roles and characters. So you've got a great concept, a very talented director, and great actors. On their own, they're capable of producing an above average film. When they're combined however, we are treated to a fantastic and very disturbing yet, thought provoking film.
Review by Tristan
Added: May 22, 2008
Our movie begins with Ann (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) arriving at their summer home. They are a picture perfect yuppie couple with a beautiful home, expensive vehicle and a large sailboat. While George is setting up said sailboat, Ann is visited by Peter (Brady Corbet) a quiet and shy young man who claims he was sent over from next door to borrow some eggs. Ann is more than happy to help him out, but when he drops the eggs she is slightly annoyed. When she offers to give him another set, he 'accidentally' bumps her cell phone into the sink, rendering it useless. After another mishap, Ann refuses to give him any more eggs until Paul (Michael Pitt) arrives at her door, asking if she could just give him the eggs, and they'll leave. Obviously angered and frightened, she attempts to force them to leave. It's about this time that George and Georgie return to the house, only to have a confrontation with the two young men. This starts off a chain of events that leads to the family being taken hostage by the two boys, and the murder of their dog. With no phone, no dog, and no neighbours to check on them, the family is forced to play along with a game. So much for the home field advantage. The rules are simple, if they're still alive in 12 hours, they win. If in 12 hours they're dead, they lose. Not the most creative game, but it will test just how much physical and emotional torture a family can take; all in the name of entertainment.
The first thing I really enjoyed about this film, was the director's decision to make Ann and George ordinary people. Usually in a film like this, we are treated to some cheesy heroic moments resulting in the protagonists coming out the victors. This is not the case, as both characters are very vulnerable, and because of Roth's and Watts' brilliant performances, equally terrified. Before watching this I had assumed I would be cheering for Tim Roth the entire time - being a huge Reservoir Dogs fan and all - since he was one of the reasons I was attracted to this film in the first place. As it turns out, Naomi Watts was far better in this film than Roth, and showed audiences that she is one of the best actresses working today.
Brady Corbet as the childish and shy Peter seemed at first to be a horrible casting decision. His first scene was fantastic, then for awhile he didn't contribute anything besides being the muscle for Paul's plan. After the movie started to pick up speed however, he really started to shine through, and I wouldn't be surprised if this role lands him a few more parts in the genre. Michael Pitt's performance as the mastermind behind the operation was flawless. The way he manage to stay calm and polite and yet, come off as a complete sociopath was fantastic. Paul repeatedly breaks the 4th wall to talk to the audience; asking for their approval, whether they think they've gone far enough, or sometimes just to smile maniacally. At first I thought it took away from the film, then I came to realize it only added to the message of the film, that we as the audience want to be completely shocked, and the only reason we watch movies like this are to feel sorry for the people involved. Or perhaps we are on the other side of the fence and want to see these people suffer. Whatever your fancy is, I'm sure you'll be thoroughly satisfied with this movie.
It is very obvious throughout this movie that director Haneke wanted to make a film as a social commentary on media violence. The dialogue between characters very much portrayed this concept, and while simple and sparse, it was very realistic and made certain scenes very hard to watch at times. The characters act very rational, and while there are a couple instances where they do something out of character, overall they are believable and as I said, realistic portrayals of both sides to this equation. This film felt much more like an art film than a psychological thriller. Many scenes lasted for upwards of 5 or 6 minutes with no cuts, and there was very little camera movement. Almost every shot was stationary, and either completely symmetrical, or completely out of balance depending on the particular mood of the scene. Also, this film had very little colour, as everything was a very neutral tone, making certain items and effects standout more than they normally would have. What little violence there is in the film is almost entirely off screen, and left to the viewer's imagination. This movie was not made with the intent of grossing out an audience with over the top gore in a horrific situation. It was merely to poke and pry at our minds to see - and possibly to wake us up to - just what we as a society find entertaining.
It's unfortunate that even after being remade for American audiences, very few people will have the opportunity to see this in a theatre. Then again, a film like this never does very well at the box office, so maybe it's for the best that it's being released on video. Chances are there's enough people out there in the horror community who've been watching this just as closely as I have, and will pick it up instantly. Funny Games is a great psychological thriller, but it is also a fantastic artistic message given to us in the form of a horror film. It's one of those movies the audience can really get into, on more than one level. I don't live in upper class suburbia, but I can appreciate how terrified a family would be in a situation like this. Part of its charm is how it makes you think, and will definitely stick with you long after the credits have rolled. What more could you ask from a horror movie? This might be one of the most chilling and disturbing pictures I've ever had the experience of viewing and considering my personal taste in film, that is saying a lot.
- added 05/22/2008, 01:44 PM
Just curious why you chose to review the remake
as opposed to the original version of the
Did the Director simply
remake the movie shot for shot because the prior
attempt had inferior casting... or was it perhaps
just a way to get the movie a more broad
Maybe the subtitles were a
detriment to the average American viewer?
Just curious, you see...
was meaning to pick up the original on DVD... but
I was waiting to hear something about it first.
- added 05/22/2008, 02:14 PM
I will throw my two cents in since I have seen
both the original film and the remake. To my
knowledge, Haneke remade the film, shot-by-shot,
because he had always wanted to remake an
Americanized version of the story. The original
film is a masterpiece as far as I am concerned.
It is truly one of the most original films to come
around in many years. The remake, though I
enjoyed it, loses some of the intensity from the
original. And while the original felt like an
experiment in violence and culture, the remake
felt like just another torture flick. But, it was
entertaining and the cast is universally solid.
- added 05/22/2008, 02:53 PM
I haven't seen the original, so for me, this is
"Funny Games". Also, I didn't think this
one felt like a torture film at all. Hostel is a
torture film. Frontiere(s) is a torture film. I
know what a torture film is, and this had zero
elements of one, other than the hostage aspect of
it. Sure, the family was tortured, but not so much
physically as mentally and emotionally. That's a
really key difference in a film like this. This
had essentially no on-screen violence, and did
little to glorify the killings or violence. To me,
it was very much about violence in our society,
and again, while I haven't seen the original, I
doubt it by making it for American audiences
Haneke changed it very much.
- added 05/22/2008, 03:51 PM
Oh, but he did change it quite a bit, in tone and
in style. He might not have meant to, but he did.
I shouldn't say it was a 'torture' film -- you're
right, that is very much comparing it to something
like "Hostel". But, to me, it is in the
same vein. And, while I could appreciate the
violence in the original film because I thought it
was making a statement, I thought he took too lax
an approach with it this time around. Just my two
grain of sand
- added 05/22/2008, 06:18 PM
Viewing the original before the remake and seeing
it before Hostel and all those torture films
existed, yeah, Haneke was making a statement, a
bold one for that time.. IMHO, that statement
wasn't lost with the remake, only
But hey, maybe I'm just
secretly in love with Michael Pitt and his gaze
could have skewed my judgement to some extent?
8/10, I didn't exactly love the original,
but I do prefer the remake.
- added 05/22/2008, 07:19 PM
I am also in love with Michael Pitt. It's no
secret. Heh Heh.
- added 05/22/2008, 09:10 PM
I've loved that kid since Bully. Even in Murder
By Numbers - which was a terrible movie - he was
- added 10/07/2008, 03:01 PM
I'm sorry, I'm going completely against the grain
here. I HATED THIS MOVIE. I don't mind weak people
who are terrified, bound, gagged, tortured and put
their faith in something outer-worldly to see them
through. But, there ain't a soul alive that would
let what happen to their kid happen and not react.
There was no reaction. Then did they do anything?
Did they arm themselves with at least knifes?
Seeing how I actually
follow true-life murder cases, there are very few
(I can't even think of any)murders where victims
just let themselves be murdered. There's always a
struggle to survive. If you know you're going to
die, you will fight.
Dad lying on
the couch moaning about a broken leg is so
unbelievable because adrenaline would have taken
over. He might have lost the fight, but moaning
like a baby, I wish they'd have killed him then
and there. This way I wouldn't have had to listen
to his fucking whining any longer.
These were the stupidest people on the face of
the earth, and the killers were annoying as
- added 10/07/2008, 03:39 PM
On repeat viewings of this film, I like it less
and less. But the film is an experiment -- it's a
test to see how far it can push the audience
before they walk out of the theatre completely. As
a test, I suppose it worked because I enjoyed it
far more the first time I saw it because my
reaction was spontaneous and more visceral. On
repeat viewings, it doesn't hold up. The novelty
wears off. So, I think the point you just made was
accurate -- the film is not concerned about
rational responses to situations as much as it's
worried about making the audience as uncomfortable
as possible. In the long term, that approach
doesn't work. Change 7/10 to 4/10.
- added 01/19/2009, 07:11 AM
When I first watched it I didn't see the hype
behind it. It felt like it was trying too hard to
be clever, especially with the long drawn out
shots. Straight after the movie finished though, I
"got" it. It feels as though the viewer
is part of the game as much as the family with the
constant fourth wall breaks. It certainly isn't a
masterpiece, and there are plenty of plot holes,
but it was a good watch. Maybe if I watch it again
knowing more about it I'll appreciate it more.
- added 08/19/2009, 05:27 PM
I agree with snow. no father will sit there
crying about his broken leg while watching people
murder his child
The Red Clover
- added 08/24/2009, 12:22 AM
I am going to disagree with Mr. Snow's statement,
"There is always a struggle to survive."
Some people, those who have experienced trauma
before, extreme trauma or have been victimized,
can have a sort of freeze-effect where they're no
different than a deer in headlights. In some cases
it's the way the victim copes with the situation,
by freezing up and dissociating. So it's not as
far of a stretch as you might think.