Funny Games (1997)

 

"Look at me, I'm so clever and deep by employing this metacinematic technique!"

 

I am rarely – if ever – offended by cinema, but Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997) did exactly that.

Essentially it is about a rich family whose life is completely devastated by two young men who might behave politely but engage in nonsensical and horrible actions. Haneke paints a picture of how shallow and screwed up the life of rich and young boys is with the intelligence of a madman. So they “naturally” have to be sadistic thieves who kill people without reason? Come on, that’s just insulting for the viewer.

But no, that’s not Haneke’s major point with Funny Games. Instead it is something as silly as attacking the audience: violence is a bad thing and we should feel bad for enjoying it in action films. The bad boys talk about metafiction and directly address the viewers on a few occasions. What’s even worse is that at one point they even pause the film and rewind with a remote – that alone derives the film of any potential to be serious or thought-provoking, which is exactly what it tries to be. Even though I am a die hard pacifist I found this film’s message utterly ridiculous. It is childish and blind to attack cinematic violence as a whole since its use is diverse and ethics don’t need to be the focus in every film involving action.

The film’s failures can be seen from the get-go. Haneke points out how “serious” he is by using pompous opera music as the background music for the first scene. It gets even worse: he juxtaposes classical music with mindless noise music full of screaming in a very tasteless way during the opening credits. The same sort of awkwardness and “over the top seriousness” is present in the film’s cinematography that can’t decide whether it wants to be distant or intimate. Occasionally Haneke shows how “hip” he is by letting violence happen loudly offscreen and then linger in the aftermath with a ridiculously long take. Then there are moments of abrupt and uncertain editing for sequences which are simply full of talking heads. The pleasant and clean lighting seems to be there only to create a “deep” juxtaposition against the cruel actions – which only manages to be infuriating when accompanied with a pretentious screenplay.

I have to apologize for the quality of this review, but I wrote it this way on purpose: it is supposed to reflect how bad the film itself is. An incoherent rant is close enough to portray one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I strongly recommend avoiding this film unless you are a masochist.

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About Oz
A Finnish film buff who has taken a huge interest in language and Japanese cinema. Can be contacted via email (johlauri@hotmail.com), Twitter (@OzymandiasJL) and a Private Message on EvaGeeks (Oz).

3 Responses to Funny Games (1997)

  1. Xard says:

    lol u mad

  2. planet news says:

    >mindless noise music full of screaming in a very tasteless way during the opening credits

    First off, Naked City is an amazing band. The screaming is John Zorn’s sax.

    >violence is a bad thing and we should feel bad for enjoying it in action films

    It seems you’re condemning the film for the message alone, which isn’t all that wrong of a message. You say that the rewind sequence deprived the film of its “potential” to be serious or thought provoking when that’s the key sequence of the film that suggests the message you suggested. I don’t see how something so jarring and esthetically out of place could not provoke some sort of thought.

    So what if Haneke tries to force us away from any immersion with the “story” itself with the forth wall breaking and rewind and so forth? Are you saying, and I think you ARE by rejecting the rewind sequences, that he shouldn’t have done these things and let the surface narrative stand by itself without any internal analysis. THAT would have been offensive, I think, since there’d be no suggestion whatsoever of the critical. If anything the suggestion saves the audience from truly being offended, and not without adding a nice surrealism to the atmosphere as well. The long take seems to be placed in a nice spot for the audience to consider everything that just happened. Haneke’s Cache is also like this. You’re supposed to think about the film during the film and after the film.

    On top of that it’s also extremely well shot and so forth…

    • >implying the rewind sequence was the only cause of lolwut
      You fail. It was just an example of how just bad it could get. Reviews are not even meant to go through every little detail so I picked the worst of the bunch for emphasis.

      The film’s idea might be fine in theory, but the way Haneke executes it is miserable. I’m insulted by how lowly he thinks of the audience.

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