Tuesday, October 02, 2018
Funny Games (1997 film)
Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Funny Games is the story of two young men who hold a family hostage and force them to play games of torture. The film is a home invasion story that explores the idea of violence as well as two men trying to push a family to their limits. Starring Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, and Stefan Clapczynski. Funny Games is a gripping yet offbeat film from Michael Haneke.
Set in a quiet lake house, the film revolves around a family who arrive to their vacation home where they receive a visit from two young men wanting a few eggs to spare only for things to go horribly wrong. Even as these two young men take the family hostage and force them to play a game in a bet to see if the family can survive the next twelve hours in a strange game where if they succeed. They’re free to go but if they do something wrong, they all die. Michael Haneke’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more about a family that is being terrorized by these two men as they are unsure of what to do. Even as they get tortured physically, emotionally, and mentally in this game that these two men are playing where the game becomes more violent and gruesome.
Haneke’s direction is straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates as it is shot largely at a studio in Vienna with exteriors shot at a lake. Yet, Haneke does have elements of style in his direction in the way he opens the film with a wide shot of a car driving into the country with a boat tugged behind. Haneke’s usage of wide shots don’t just play into the locations but also this air of intrigue into what the audience is seeing such as a scene of the family waving to another family at home with these two mysterious strangers who would later come to their home and ask for a few eggs and such. Haneke’s approach to the suspense is slow-building such as the scene of the family confronting these two young men who refuse to leave home as the tension starts to loom and then it gets violent but not in a gruesome way.
The moments of violence only happen off-screen as it’s more of the impact in the aftermath that is important in what Haneke wanted to show. The fact that he doesn’t show anyone being killed just adds to the intrigue of what Haneke would say as there are also these moments when one of the young men would look directly at the camera and break the fourth wall asking the audience if they want more violence. These moments of breaking the fourth wall is largely a commentary on people’s appetite for violence in films and other forms of media where a character ask the audience if they want more. Even in moments where the aftermath of a violent act is so shocking and disturbing that it raises a lot of what is happening in the story. Even as Haneke would show a moment following a violent aftermath in a long shot that happens for nearly 10 minutes that play into not just grief but also reflection of what had happened as it would later be followed by more intense moments of violence as a character would say something in regards to the length of the film that the audience is watching. Overall, Haneke crafts an extremely disturbing yet provocative film about a family being invaded by two young men in their family home.
Cinematographer Jurgen Jurges does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for many of the film’s daytime scenes while aiming for a moodier look in the scenes set at night including the usage of interior and exterior lights. Editor Andreas Prochaska does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the suspense with some straightforward cutting that doesn’t devolve too much into ideas of style. Production designer Christoph Kanter does amazing work with the look of the house in its interiors including the home of the neighbors in its interior setting.
Costume designer Lisy Christl does terrific work with the costumes from the posh-like clothing of the young men to the more casual look of the family. The sound work of Walter Amann does superb work with the sound as it emphasizes on the atmosphere of the home and the sound of violence off-screen. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of offbeat music choices from the serene usage of classical music from George Frideric Handel, Pietro Mascagni, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the menacing and abrasive metal music of Naked City.
The film’s incredible cast feature a few notable small roles from Christoph Bantzer as the neighbor Fred, Wolfgang Gluck as a friend in Robert, and Doris Kunstmann as a friend named Gerda who was riding a boat with Robert. Stefan Clapczynski is fantastic as George Jr. as a boy who is terrorized by these two young men as he tries to fight back and even go to the neighbor’s home for help only to make a horrifying discovery. Arno Frisch and Frank Giering are great in their respective roles as Paul and Peter as the two young men who terrorize the family with Frisch as the charming yet menacing Paul and Giering as the more reluctant Peter. Finally, there’s Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as George Sr. and Anna as a couple who endure this air of terror with the former getting injured and the latter trying to maintain composure as well as beg the young men to stop and not kill them.
Funny Games is a tremendous yet unsettling film from Michael Haneke. Featuring a great ensemble cast, eerie visuals, and a compelling commentary on people’s fascination with violence in film and media. It’s a film that play into the idea of a home invasion with ideas of what is considered gruesome for audiences who are part of a film that is confrontational. In the end, Funny Games is a spectacular film from Michael Haneke.
Michael Haneke Films: (The Seventh Continent) – (Benny’s Video) – (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance) – (The Castle (1997 TV movie) – (Code Unknown) – The Piano Teacher - (Time of the Wolf) – Cache` - Funny Games (2007 film) – The White Ribbon - Amour - Happy End
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