Tuesday 10 June 2008

Funny Games (2007)

I learned about this movie from a poster in the Tube. I used to be on top of this stuff. I asked a friend about it. She said it was a good movie, a remake of an Austrian film. She said the original was good, too. So while trolling the web for something to watch, I found a link to Funny Games, and that was that.

Let me get something out in open: there's nothing funny about this movie. The title sets up an expectation that what you're about to watch is indeed horrific, but also perhaps darkly humorous; our ability to find humour in or make light of tragedy, albeit a coping mechanism, is horrific in itself. But in this case, this is not the case. Rather, the title reflects the mindset of the antagonists but at no point are you allowed to glimpse their psyche or understand them at all.

Tim Roth and Naomi Watts play husband and wife George and Ann. They and their son, who is also named George, arrive at their summer lake house (which, by the way, is HUGE--these people are loaded) and soon find themselves hosting some unwelcome guests. Peter and Paul, though they seem like clean-cut boys are psychopaths. I can't, at this point, draw any parallels to American Psycho because a) I'm not that well informed about American Psycho and b) I didn't really like American Psycho, but I'm going to assume that parallels can be drawn. Anyway, Peter and Paul set about tormenting the family by constantly thinking up demeaning and torturous games for them to play. Eventually, a bet is laid down that Ann and the two Georges will die by 9am. But Peter and Paul make it perfectly clear that it's a loose-loose situation for the family because, if they survive the night, they'll just kill them at 9 anyhow.

And so the narrative progresses towards the inevitable. I can't say if or how the story deviates from the original, but the weirdest things happen along the way to what is ultimately a horrifically depressing and unsurprising end. Paul keeps looking at the camera and talking to the audience. Is it meant to draw us in, to become part of their sick game as we make our own wager on the family's lifespan? Or is it meant to alienate us? Peter and Paul are so unknowable to begin with that it would seem almost impossible to further separate the audience from the film.

The first time it happened, it caught me off guard. Which I suppose was the whole point. But then he did it again, and I was like "shut up, I don't need to be reminded I'm watching a movie". I don't have a problem with self-reflexive cinema, so long as it's well done. And I'm not entirely convinced this brand of post-modernism is good or even necessary for this film. Indeed it lends a creepy and surreal atmosphere to the proceedings, but it also forces the point that the family is well and truly fucked. Paul is in complete control. He is in control of Ann and the Georges, and he is in control of you. There is no hope for the family and you're a fool if you think otherwise. So why bother watching if everyone's just gonna die?

Because it's about how. Not why or even who. And that would be fine except for the one enormous gaping hole film's logic. Like I said, Paul is in charge. So much so that at one point, when things don't go his way, he rewinds the movie a couple of minutes and starts over. But he can't control all time and space and his sphere of influence is limited. Else he wouldn't have had to kill the dog, nor would George Jr. have been able to escape next door. So when Ann also escapes and is later captured on the main road by Peter and Paul who are, inexplicably, driving around in the middle of the night, there is no plausible argument for this turn of events.

That one large problem aside, Funny Games wasn't terrible. It wasn't funny either. But also wasn't bad. I imagine this American version was watered down some, as most remakes are, so I'd be interested to see the original which I think is supposed to comment upon our desensitization toward violence in the media. And if that is the case, then I likely totally misunderstood this version because they were both made by the same man.

A minute to recoup my losses: I asked, why bother watching if everyone's just gonna die? Because we want to. We paid our ticket (figuratively if not literally) to see two men torture and murder a family. We even hope to enjoy it.

Plot holes and all.


Vardulon said...

So, funny story. I'm watching Funny Games (the original) on advice of a friend. (btw - from what I hear, it's a line-for-line, shot-for-shot remake).

I'm already ticked off when two chances to kill one of the white guys go by (you know, where they've split up, and are heavily outnumbered?), but I've accepted that it's just going to be a bad movie, and that I might as well see where it's going.

Then, something like ten minutes later, lead white guy turns to me and says (essentially) that it's my fault that these people are going to die, since I know that's what's going to happen, and I'm continuing to watch the movie.

So I turned it off.

Your move, Haenecke.

Funny Games U.S Movie said...

This is one of the most memorable and artful horror films of recent times, but it is also one of the most unnerving and difficult to watch.