On general release
Michael Haneke / USA/France/UK/Austria/Germany/Italy / 2007 / 111 mins
When reviewing Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, (a remake of his own 1997 version) it’s easy to run out of adjectives. Dark, distressing, disturbing, and disquieting, are frequently used to describe this film. Normal conventions are turned upside down as a middle class family are subjected to a terrifying ordeal of kidnapping and violence…or are they? Violence is implied, but rarely seen, the threat of violence seems to be more potent than the actual act itself. The main antagonists, Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt), seem the least likely of perpetrators. They are respectable looking, well mannered and polite, and yet their hold over the family hints at unseen menace and psychological control.
Throughout the film, the audience is constantly challenged. There’s no neat ‘package’ of violence. Instead, it’s presented as mundane and drawn out, losing the ‘glamour’ that mainstreams films often present it as. Peter and Paul act as though they’re seeking the audience’s permission to carry out violent acts. This engagement climaxes at the end of the film when the audience seems suitably repulsed. You want the family to gain revenge upon Peter and Paul, willing them on to inflict horrific acts against those who have tormented them. Alas, the neatness of ‘good’ prevailing over ‘evil,’ so often prevalent in Hollywood’s world view, is absent from this film, as it forces us to reconsider our attitudes towards how violence is portrayed on screen and the consequences of its deployment.
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