Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Funny Games

This is Michael Haneke's shot for shot remake of his 1997 movie of the same name. The original was an absolutely disturbing thriller (it was #73 on my most thrilling list). And logically since the only change in this one is the performances, it should be the same. I really don't understand the purpose of him remaking his own movie so closely to the original. At least with Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake, it was clearly meant to be a homage to Hitchcock, but who is Haneke paying tribute to- himself?

It's been a while since I saw the original, but this one, of course, played just like it. On a second viewing, it's interesting because there opening scenes seem much more foreboding, knowing what comes later. The plot is fairly simple. Two deranged men take an upper class family hostage in their home as a part of a twisted game. As the movie progresses they become more and more sick, enjoying the game more and more.

Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, and Devon Gearhart star as the trapped family, and Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet are their captors. It's a great cast, and I'm assuming this is the motivation behind the remake. Because of the moderate success of his later movie, Cache, Haneke probably figured if he Americanized Funny Games, it could reach a wider audience. Unfortunately I don't believe this one received a very wide release either.

The movie is thrilling and disturbing in a very Hitchcock-eque way. Very little is shown, and it's all about a steady rise in atmospheric tension. There's much more to this, though. Haneke is making a very stern comment on a culture of consumers of violence. These men are so desensitized to violence, that the only way for them to amuse themselves is to engage in it. Their moral outlook is so skewed that the only important thing to them, is that they all follow the rules laid out by this game.

There are a few parts that bug me. There are a few times when they acknowledge the camera. This works for the commentary of the movie, making a conscious effort to indict the audience as spectators to this crime. One part that really bothered me has to do with the characters actually controlling the playback of the movie itself. This seemed so ridiculously out of place.

The original is only a decade old, but appears to be much older. The remake captures that spirit and locks it down all over again. Both of these are a refreshing break from the terrible horror movies that litter the market today. I recently re-watched the original Prom Night in preparation for its remake, and as bad as the 1980 version was, I have no doubt it was a more well made movie than the new one. Movies like Funny Games are the reason I like thrillers. They make you feel dirty for watching them, and make you question your own values. It's like Haneke is looking right at us, saying that we're all responsible.


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