Funny Games (2007) ****
D: Michael Haneke
C: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
Plot Synopsis: When Ann, husband George and son Georgie arrive at their holiday home they are visited by a pair of polite and seemingly pleasant young men. Armed with deceptively sweet smiles and some golf clubs, they proceed to terrorize and torture the tight-knit clan, giving them until the next day to survive.
Review: In approaching an Americanized take on his Austrian film, director Michael Haneke has shot a near scene for scene remake. He even goes as far as using the same principal location, the same props and even the same color palates of the original. However, there's nothing lazy or ill conceived about this approach.
On the surface level, the premise appears fairly simplistic. Two seemingly normal, All American guys wedge themselves into the lives of a couple vacationing with their son, where they then proceed to torture & kill them. However, there's more then meets the eye. When it comes to the scenes of torture, lead actress, Naomi Watts, is stripped of her clothing and forced to don a pair of bra & panties for the remainder of the running time. From there, it's one prolonged scene of torture after another, which are all far too effectively staged & powerfully acted (especially by Watts). However, this isn't scenes of Watts half naked or scenes of excessive torture for the sake of.
Director Michael Haneke is making a pointed statement of how we absorb violence, we fetishize it and even cheer on characters who partake in these kinds of violent acts, before ultimately wanting the protagonists to escape this nightmarish scenario. Playing one half of this psychopathic duo is Michael Pitt. Like the original, his character addresses the audience in asking whether they're willing to bet if the main characters will make it out alive or whether these psychos will be successful in their plans.
The commentary doesn't end there. Throughout the course of the proceedings, Pitt's character addresses issues involving plotting and various cinematic devices. This is a film that makes you want to look at what you're watching and why. For most, it's too much. They'll only be able to see the scenes of torture & violence and how genuinely uncomfortable they'll make you feel.
However, that's the point being made. Haneke is challenging us to look within ourselves and to figure out why we watch scenes of senseless violence. A lot of people will be angered by this and want to lash out against the film. Again, that's the point being made. Viewers should be angry by this.
In attacking movies, violence and audience expectations, writer / director Michael Haneke shows a tenacity that's rarely seen in mainstream cinema. That tenacity has resulted in one of the most bold, audacious and thought provoking films of the past ten years with the most daring statement saved for last. Why are we, as viewers, willing to shell out money to watch a pointless remake that's only been made for monetary reasons? In this day & age, that statement has never resonated more so and elevates this beyond being a mere movie, but a reflection of not only the movie going public, but us in general. [R] 111 minutes.
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