Friday, July 16, 2010

Funny Games (1997)

Apparently Austria is the one country in the world without an emergency number.

In a recent years, American filmmakers have decided that it's a great idea to take obscure European horror films and remake them nearly shot for shot. Other than my fundamental problem with doing this, the complete lack of originality, there is another major problem. Why bother remaking a movie that isn't any good?  The strangest part is that it's remade by the original director. I've never seen the recent remake of Funny Games, but I'm not going to bother. Funny Games is a great example of how a great idea can still become a unremarkable film.

A family vacationing at their lakeside home is taken hostage by some mild-mannered psychopaths who want to borrow eggs. They kill the dog and break the fourth wall in an attempt to do something incomprehensible. The film is directed by Auteur filmmaker Michael Haneke and it shocked audiences everywhere when it was released. The movie has retained cult status in recent years and the recent remake has definitely increased the profile of the movie.

Somewhere in Funny Games there is an effective psychological thriller, but it just doesn't ever come out. The film is most remembered for two things. The first is that it's, supposedly, intensely disturbing. I don't buy that. Maybe I am a cold, emotionless human being, but I found the movie rather short on disturbing content and moments. The shock factor was basically nonexistent as far as I'm concerned. The second reason people remember the movie is it's fourth wall breaking style. Breaking the fourth wall has been out of style since Ferris Bueller's Day Off and it's an annoying distraction in Funny Games. It serves the film very poorly and only serves to bludgeon the directors rather uninteresting opinion into your skull. What I liked about Funny Games was simple. The decision to show very little on screen violence was a good one and there is some solid film-making here. The "famous" ten minute shot is a pretty impressive one. The actors also do a pretty decent job. Things work pretty well, the actors certainly give it their all, but sometimes they might be guilty of a little overacting. What's wrong with Funny Games is that it's an average psychological thriller with some really horrible stylistic decisions that make it a chore to watch.

I just can't enjoy a movie like Funny Games. I have nothing against disturbing subject matter, but I do have something against poor film-making. Funny Games is just not exciting to me. Maybe if the film got down off it's high horse, dropped the fourth wall breaking nonsense and just focused on making things a little more interesting it would be significantly more enjoyable. At least it's not as bad as Man Bites Dog.



Simon said...

I liked it. And I love breaking the fourth wall when it's done well.

Squish said...

Apparently Austria is the one country in the world without an emergency number.

Bahahah loved that. The girlfriend and I both said, "wait what?!" when that cropped up.

Consequently, it occurs in remote areas like cottage country that 911 doesn't exist, as it's firstly an urban service. maybe that was something assumed and understood in 1997?!

Now I can't agree with your opinion of the fourth wall, but I understand it completely, as my review (going up soon) will concur. I do entirely agree with you that it never should have been remade, not that I saw the Watts / Roth version.

The Vanishing (1988) is another Euro Thriller remade by the same director and this one stars Kieffer in 1993! Never saw the Kieffer version, and you know what? Never will.

Alfindeol said...


I can agree that braking the fourth wall has a place in cinema and theatre. When I was a theatre student, I studied a lot of plays that did it and it was such a crutch for the young playwright, breaking the fourth wall to explain their message that I started to recognize the difference between using it correctly and using it as a crutch. The first instance of it in Funny Games, the wink to the camera, is great. It's very subtle and interesting. The following instances feel like the director is using the device solely to get his message to the audience.

@ Squish

There was probably a reason why the couldn't call emergency, but it still made me laugh out loud. A simple explanation of why you couldn't call would have sufficed. I can't wait to see your review!