Wednesday, February 9, 2011

922. Funny Games (1997)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Michael Haneke
Written By: Michael Haneke
Main Cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski


So this evening I decided to take a break from the Woody Allen Week project and take another look at a movie I saw a few years ago, "Funny Games". For those interested, it is currently streaming on Netflix and is actually a really good film, which Haneke liked so much, he developed a shot for shot remake of in 2008.

The film opens on a very pleasant, happy looking family, consisting of father Georg (Muhe), mother Anna (Lothar) and son Georgie (Clapczynski), driving to their lake house to enjoy a vacation. As they drive along, Anna and Georg play a game, forcing each other to guess the classical music piece blaring from the radio. They eventually arrive at their lake house and as they begin to settle in they hear a knock at the door. At this point, Anna is alone in the house, while her husband and son prepare the boat down on the lake. The knock at the door belongs to Peter, a young man who claims to be a friend of the neighbors. Anna doesn't doubt this, because as they were driving up they did see two young men with the neighbors, whom they themselves did not recognize. She invites him in and he asks to borrow some eggs. Once the eggs are given, they are broke and four more eggs are given, only to be broken as well. When Peter's friend, Paul, joins him, the boys remain calm and very polite, but insist on more eggs. Georg eventually finds his way back to the house, only to find his wife distraught, wanting the young men to leave her home immediately. Georg can't make heads or tails of it, but sides with his wife in asking the gentlemen to leave. The men put up a bit of a fuss and in the process break Georg's leg with a golf club...and that's just the beginning of their 12 hour reign of terror over the family.


Let's start with the good, shall we? First of all, I love the subtlety of this film. Nothing is ever over the top and all the emotions and pain that we're witnessing is very real and very heartbreaking. Haneke reminds us that crooks and criminals aren't always stupid and shows us the horror that these two young men, possessing mass amounts of cunningness, can inflict. Haneke also reminds us, in the midst of our horror, that we love watching it unfold, as Paul breaks the fourth wall, giving us eerie winks and talking directly to us. In fact, one of Paul's lines is something to the effect of "we wouldn't want to disappoint our audience", in reference to the criminals leaving and ending their hostage situation with the family. As far as the cast goes, everyone does a superb job. I was especially fond of Paul, who tended to remind me of Alex from "A Clockwork Orange", as he was dressed in white and definitely resembling a "droog". Anna and Georg were great too, spilling out their emotions at the appropriate times and going full throttle and making me wince at times at the sheer horror and pain in their voices.

Now, the bad...shall we? When discussing the bad parts of "Funny Games", there's really only one part to discuss and I'm sure if you've seen the film, you know where I'm headed. Near the end, Anna manages to grab a rifle and shoot Peter, causing Paul to scream "Where's the remote!" and rewind the film to the point just before Anna shoots Peter. Paul gets back to where he wants to be, stops Anna from grabbing the gun and finishes his job on the family.

Now I really have to question why Haneke did this, because for the life of me, I can't justify it whatsoever. I'm just not sure why, when you have such a fantastic movie going, when all of your players are nailing it and you're telling a hell of a story, why you'd want to stop the momentum of your own movie and do such a silly thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that just because I can't justify Haneke's decision, doesn't mean that there is no justification for it, but I just don't get it...I'm sure there's a reason, but I just don't get it and even if I did, doubt that I would agree with it. The move totally took me out of the movie, and while I still enjoyed myself, definitely lessened the enjoyment overall for me. Going back in time a bit, I'll point to one other spot where there may have been able to be improvement and that's the spot right after Georgie is killed, where for minutes there is nothing going on. Now I'm not calling this bad, because after all, their son was just murdered in front of them, so the reaction is justifiable. But it also took me out of the movie for a bit...not as much as the remote scene, but just a bit.

RATING: 7.5/10 Despite that one scene that I mentioned, this film really is great, with powerful performances and heartbreaking, raw emotion and a great plot. I definitely need to add some more Haneke films to my watch list, as this is the only one in the "1001" book.


February 8, 2011 10:36pm


  1. I really struggled to accept this film. To me, it came over as just another of those 'home invasion' films that seem to be saying that because someone is 'nice', and have comfortable homes, when others don't, they deserve to have their lives torn apart by abuse destruction and violence? perhaps i got it wrong.. and my watching of this followed soon after 'Daiseys', which seemed to also condone teenage rage against anyone who dare to want to live by differing values.

  2. A little off topic, but having just seen Haneke's 'Hidden'...
    If you think the reverse the tape bit is playing with the audience.. try Hidden.
    I enjoyed it much more than Funny Games, but leaves you much more puzzled. And I found a copy of White Ribbon at the car boot a couple of days ago for £1 (about $1.40), which is now awaiting a watch, just as I can finish 'Orphans of the Storm', which cropped up unexpectedly on TV last night


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