In 1997 an Austrian film director by the name of Michael Haneke released a shocking film for its time and in my opinion still shocking to this day, called Funny Games. In 2007 Haneke remade the Austrian film frame for frame, word for word — only this time in English and starring the beautiful and talented Naomi Watts. Did I mention how beautiful she is? Here is the log line for the movie, provided by IMDb: “Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.”
Pretty straight forward and I have to say I agree with that description in a small sense. However, this movie has a much, much deeper context and I am not sure if many people fully understand the idea of it and what Haneke was trying to get across to viewers. I will be upfront. I did not understand either, until just recently.
On our podcast "Good Horror Bad Horror," my co-host Stephen and I discussed the film in depth, and we started talking about a scene in the movie that really confused me. Toward the end of the film, after this family has been dragged through some of the most horrific tests of the human psyche that could exist, Naomi Watts’s character manages to grab a hunting rifle and shoot one of the psychopaths point blank, right in the chest, and one could assume that shot probably killed him. Then this happens: The other psychopath grabs a TV remote and hits the rewind button and the movie, the actual movie that you are watching, rewinds and resets back to right before Watts’s character grabs the gun. This time, when she goes to grab the gun, she fails to do so and the young men kill her husband as a penalty for “breaking the rules of the game.”
After this scene I had no idea what just happened, and I'm sure neither did most viewers. Before I move on I would like to point out another aspect of this film that I have never seen done in a movie and is extremely rare in films, especially films of this nature. There are times during the movie where one of the young psychopaths breaks what is known as the fourth wall. During the movie the young man will look directly into the camera; either he will just stare or he will ask you, the audience, a direct question. So why did Haneke do this? Why did he break all the rules that we see movies follow? These instances do nothing but piss you off, and I have seen this movie three times now and every time I see these “rules” being broken, I get so angry and I am extremely shocked at the same time, and you will be, too, I guarantee it.
Here is what Stephen explained to me. These weird and anger-driven scenes that take place in the movie, the breaking of the fourth wall and the crazy hit-the-rewind-button scene, are often interpreted as either bad ideas or bad directing in general, yet this is not the case. Haneke did this intentionally; he wanted you to be mad, and he wanted you to get out of your seat and throw your remote through the TV screen.
Most of the time before we see a movie we will usually read what it is about, read critic reviews, look at the genre of the movie and maybe even delve a little deeper to see if purchasing this movie or movie ticket will pay out in the end. I mean, I am sure no-one wants to purchase something they hate — right? So I feel comfortable saying we usually have some kind of idea of what we are in for when we go to watch a movie, be it a love story, thriller, horror or anything else. So why is Funny Games any different? Look at the log line again: “Two psychopathic young men take a family hostage in their cabin.” So the question for you is: What did you really expect when you go into a movie with a description like that? Haneke capitalized on this idea and in my opinion he brilliantly executed it.
Just when you think this family catches a break and you think they might come out on top, Haneke basically says no! You came to a movie with a description that states a family is terrorized by two psychopathic men, and that is what you are going to f**king get! Through the film the director is asking you directly: Why are you still watching this? What is wrong with you? I do not think Michael Haneke is trying to be a smug jerk, I think he is just trying to pull some real human emotion out of the viewer, and based on all the viewer reviews I have read, he succeeds in doing just that.
If I haven’t spoiled the movie too much for you, and you have not seen it yet, go into the movie with an open mind. Pay no attention to the negative reviews you see on Amazon or iTunes, just try to appreciate what the director is trying to accomplish. This is also a great movie in my opinion — well acted, scripted and it has Naomi Watts sooo just sayin'. Please comment below and let us know what you think about the movie and if you agree or disagree with what I have written.
By Christopher Waters @cwaters488