Michael Pitt holds Devon Gearhart in a pillow case in Funny Games.
by Gary Sundt
Note: Funny Games never came to Flagstaff’s movie theater, thus I didn’t get to review the film upon the initial release. So now that its on DVD, I have rented it in order to review it. Enjoy.
When I saw the trailer for Funny Games, I was intrigued beyond the basis of me being a horror movie fan. This film is written and directed by Michael Haneke, and it is a shot-for-shot remake of his German language film of the same name made slightly more than a decade ago. The original film was designed to be a comment on media violence, and so is the remake. But this remake wants to punish Americans specifically, for it is we more than any other culture that craves blood when we go to the movies.
The flick is about a family who is terrorized by two strangers clad in clean, white golf outfits. The family is Anna (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart), and their terrorizers are Peter/Jerry/Butthead (Brady Corbet) and Paul/Tom/Beavis (Michael Pitt). That’s the whole story, and we watch how things get grim, grimmer, grimmest and finally grave. The film has no plot to speak of, a point made when Paul, in one of a few candid inquiries with the audience, asks us if we desire plot development. We do, but Funny Games is a film that revels in not giving us what we want.
What was good? The performances are top notch across the board, and the cinematography by Darius Khondji (the same guy who shot David Fincher’s Se7en) is effective in creating a chilling atmosphere. The bad? The overwhelming lack of purpose that is felt throughout the entire running time.
Funny Games could be seen as an interesting experiment: a filmmaker remaking his film shot-for-shot to see if lightning in a bottle can be caught twice. But to what end? The movie has already been made (and not all that long ago), the point has already been made, so why make it again? What more does Haneke have to say? Nothing, so the remake is just pointless.
It is this pointlessness of Funny Games that overwhelms any admirable aspects the film has. There is a moment where the film literally rewinds itself in order to change the past in the villains’ favor. So, if the past can just be changed at random, what’s the point of watching the movie? We know right from the beginning how this will play out, so why do we care?
Lots of questions, none of which have answers. Unfortunately, I cannot rewind real life, in which I would change history and rent a different movie.