Funny Games Michael Haneke

Funny Games Michael Haneke
By remaking his 1997 film shot for shot, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke follows up his lingering masterpiece Caché with an updated, English-language exercise in exploiting an audience. Ever so meticulously staged, the plot surrounds upper-middle class married couple George and Ann Farber (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) and their ten-year-old son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) who are held hostage at their lake-front cottage in Long Island by two seemingly innocent, yet bloodthirsty, white-clad youths, Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet). The film unfolds at an unbearable pace in a set so isolated and restricted it is nightmarish, which seems to play right into the hands of Haneke’s plan to manipulate the viewer. His intentions are crystal clear: to make you squirm and want to witness the brutality the same way a film like Hostel makes you. (Though the idea is to recognize that the Austrian gives it to you with much more artistic flair — check out the fancier cinematography!) He emphasizes this by giving Pitt encouraging lines directed at the audience, delivered with the most unsettling eye contact, which is freeze-framed with the utmost effectiveness in the finale. If you’re watching to indulge in some torture porn and witness Paul and Peter’s gruesome acts then you walk right into Haneke’s trap. I get that this is supposed to be a commentary on our fondness for demented bloodshed but I can’t give Haneke the credit he so badly wants so easily. It’s no doubt an interesting experiment — the oodles of press alone prove that — and even a riveting watch from beginning to end (everyone seems to forget just how creepy the events are in the film). However, it’s hard to argue the statement isn’t as significant or impacting as its creator would like to think. That said, as little as they have to work with in the script, the cast are all effective in their own right, especially the malevolent performances of Pitt and Corbet, who give preppy chic a whole new respect. With all the controversy that followed Funny Games, you’d think that an outspoken character like Haneke, who has constantly defended both versions, would indulge in a commentary, or any kind of explanation, as a bonus for the DVD. But surprisingly, there is nothing extra, which has me wondering if this is yet another game the director is playing with us. (Seville)