Review- Funny Games (the 1997 Original, NOT the American Remake)

   *** This review may contain spoilers , nothing too major though.***

I’m not quite sure what to make of this movie, I do know one thing: I’ve never seen a movie quite like this before. I saw it because John Waters said it was his favorite movie of the year, and also because it was supposed to be very shocking and disturbing.

After I watched it, I just kind of sat there blinking thoughtfully, not really knowing what to think. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; let’s face it, with many movies these days, you forget about them within a minute of the end credits finish. This movie wasn’t really what I expected. I didn’t expect the movie to have such a cold, flat tone, for one thing. For another, I didn’t expect it to be so depressing.

The plot concerns a family–two parents, one young boy, and a dog–have recently arrived at their summer home by the lake for a nice relaxing vacation. Two young men trick their way into their home and, for no apparent reason, proceed to play mind games with them, torture them psychologically, emotionally, and physically, and kill them. That’s about the extent of the plot.

Here’s the bizarre opening credits sequence, beware of terrible music:

I’m not really sure what to make of this movie, or even how to find the words to describe it. Usually I write reviews fairly quickly, for this one I almost felt like I was back in college trying to answer an essay question.; I guess that says something right there. You can find some trivia here. The director, Michael Haneke, kind of comes off as a pretentious douche, but still interesting (especially if you’ve seen Funny Games).

Some people have said the movie is very unrealistic. Those of us who have known someone who was the victim of a motive-less homicide in their own home would disagree. Most killers do get into someone’s home by talking their way in, or taking advantage of a situation where someone doesn’t want to be rude. I have always been extremely careful, and never open the door of my home to a stranger. After watching this movie, any stranger I find in my home will probably end up being beaten by a pulp to me, even if they turn out to be completely harmless. Also, never trust anyone who is wearing surgical gloves for no apparent reason. Husbands, if your wife asks you to throw someone out of the house, don’t ask questions first-just do it. Perhaps the only part I thought was unrealistic was the fact that the husband takes several fatal minutes to try to hear both sides of the story before deciding to do anything. If my spouse walked in, saw two men in our house we barely knew, and me on the verge of tears telling him to make them leave, they would either be gone in less than 5 seconds or something violent would occur.

People have called this movie extremely disturbing. I’d give it maybe a 7 or 8 on a scale of one to ten, one being Scream and ten being, say, Man Behind the Sun. What kept it from being all-out disturbing for me? Fortunately, one of the killers frequently breaks the “fourth wall” and talks directly to the camera. (spoilers coming, skip this next and the next 2 paragraphs if you don’t want to know). There’s also a scene where one of the killers grabs the TV remote control and – re-windthe movie for a couple of minutes so they can change the outcome. While I admire the film-maker for being original, and I understand the statement he was trying to make with this, it mostly killed my suspension of disbelief (characters stopping the action by turning to the camera and asking the viewer a question will definitely do that). I’m glad this happened, however. Otherwise, this movie would have given me nightmares.

I don’t even know who to recommend this movie to. I’m at a loss, which is pretty rare for a loudmouth like me.

Characters you care about don’t survive, and in fact, come to fates that you would not wish on your worst enemy. As in life, there’s no reason for the crime other than the killer’s personal amusement. And as is so often sadly the case, the killers will probably never are convicted (let alone arrested) and seem to feel no guilt or shame. They permanently destroy an innocent person’s life as casually as someone would kill a spider.

The scene about 2/3 through the movie that people mention as being the most shocking and upsetting was so painfully realistic I had to look away. We don’t see the actual act, just the aftermath, which is much more effective. I don’t think I’ll get the image of Anna on the couch out of my head for a long, long time; the director shot the scene in ‘real time’, and everything is so still for so long that I actually thought for a minute that my DVD had frozen up.

Again, I’m not really sure what to make of this movie, or even how to find the words to describe it. Usually I write reviews fairly quickly, for this one I almost felt like I was back in college trying to answer an essay question. I guess that says something right there.

On the negative side, I don’t like when directors manipulate the audience’s emotions, especially with gimmicks. The plot is very thin, and there is no real ‘climax’ at the end; something happens and the movie just sort of meanders off. I also felt at times like I was being preached to.

I can’t really use the word ‘positive’ to explain the things that I thought were effective, or say that there were things I ‘liked’ or ‘enjoyed’. This is not a likeable movie. Instead, here are the things that I thought worked well or were memorable. The acting was superb; the actress playing Anna was so good that I actually had to remind myself at times that I was watching a movie and not a documentary or snuff film. There’s no score. I was never able to predict what was going to happen next. We never see the act of homicide, only the aftermath. This is not what I would call a gory movie, but it is still sickening enough that I couldn’t eat while watching. The film never glamorizes violence, makes it look cool, or portrays the slightest bit of likeability in the killers. It has the courage to be utterly downbeat and grim. It reminded me I need to get a stronger chain bolt installed on our front door.

I don’t even know who to recommend this movie to. I’m at a loss, which is pretty rare for a loudmouth like me. Adults only. Perhaps people who saw Natural Born Killers and thought Mickey and Mallory were the heroes, or people who went out and bought OJ Simpson masks to wear as a Halloween costume should see the victim’s side. I know who should NOT see the movie: those who are easily disturbed, worry obsessively about something happening to their family or have lost someone they know to a homicide, or people expecting something enjoyably spooky. If you want black humor, watch Bad Lieutenant or something else. I have a pretty morbid sense of humor at times and I didn’t crack a smile once.

Till I read several reviews after I watched, I had never heard the director’s statement that “people who walk out because they can’t take the movie don’t need it, while the people who sit through the entire movie do”. Since I sat through the movie, I’d really rather not dwell on what that says about my personality and morals. You know what? No thanks, I don’t think I’ll go there. I think I’ll put “Bye Bye Birdie” in the DVD player instead and try not to think about it….