Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Funny Games ***

Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth
Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart

Married couple, Ann (Watts) and George (Roth), leave on a holiday to their lake house with their young son Georgie (Gearhart).
Shortly after arriving, two young men by the names of Paul (Pitt) and Peter (Corbet) arrive at their door. They come to borrow some eggs and after a bizarre shift in their behavior they take the family hostage and make a bet: that all members of the family will be dead in less than twelve hours.
What sounds like the premise of your average gore thriller (and probably should sound just like that...) is in fact an explosive study on the nature of violence in the media.
Helmed by the visionary Michael Haneke, this is one of those films that completely divides an audience; you either love it or loathe it.
Making a shot by shot remake of his homonymous 1997 film, Haneke proves to be the kind of filmmaker who decides that when you watch one of his movies you won't be able to get it out of your head (whatever the reasons are).
"Funny Games" is the kind of teasing, brutal spectacle that works both as a genre picture (surprisingly most of the shocking violence here occurs offscreen, proving just how more sadistic the human imagination can be) and as a more artistic treatise.
When the first one was released, it was a time appropriate exploration on how insensitive we have become to violence. The title is both a nod to the torture Paul and Peter subject the other characters to, as well as our own voyeuristic involvement in the whole deal.
Haneke was once quoted as saying that "if you leave the theater you don't need this movie, if you stay you do", his intention seems to be one of preoccupation towards the amount of psychological disturbances his audience can be put through.
But then if this is the case, why bother making a film like this and expect the audience to just walk out of it?
And even more adequate for our times, why would someone go and remake the same film they made a mere decade ago?
The one thing you can't argue about the film is the brilliance of its performers. Watts is hypnotizing, the way her suburban discomfort is followed by a complete mental destruction while layering it with strokes of maternity, slightly awkward sexuality and guilt have to be seen to be believed.
While the usually overpowering Roth completely changes your vision of what he can do, the idea that a few years ago he would've been perfect for one of the torturers might cross your mind.
While Pitt and Corbet become real demonic minions; the actors, who might prove to be the most threatening baby faced thespians this side of McCaulay Culkin, have the ability to haunt your nightmares after this.
Haneke has never been one for subtlety (could there be a clearer metaphor for his accusation as when he implies that we literally open the door to violence?), but what the film lacks in teasing abilities, it more than fulfills with complex brain food.
That he constantly breaks the fourth wall, making the experience more "interactive" is pure wickedness and that he sometimes refuses to move the camera might feel like those times when as kids we were sent to "think about what we did" in the corner.
He treats us like the children who erred, like the adults who should know better and like the kids who chose to become these adults.
Perhaps thinking as an idealist, Haneke assumed that the first film would guarantee a mind shift in our doings, but ten years later, the world is doing worse than ever.
Is the fact that this is an American production a direct nod to the Iraq War? (Films rarely invite to hold such discussions afterwards...).
"Funny Games" often feels like playing hide and seek. The twist is that you don't really know the part you're playing, but you can't help but embrace the challenge.

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