Sunday, February 14, 2010

Funny Games U.S. (2007)

Movies that make statements about violence are nothing new. Movies such as "Last House on the Left", " "Menace 2 Society" and others have taken the subject and explored it in discomforting but provocative ways. Why do audiences get enjoyment out of violent films and entertainment so much, especially when one considers the fact that violence is anything but fun? While some movies are able to engage in such topics in an intelligent manner, others take the preachy, obnoxious route that thinks hammering it's audience over the head is the best way to get it's message across. That's exactlly what Michael Haneke's shot for shot English Language remake of his 1997 film "Funny Games" is.

The plot deals with a middle class family named the Farbers (with mom and dad played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), who are on a vacation. Things are great-until two men named Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt) come along, with one thing in mind-torture and murder, and they see the Farber family as a prime target.

The plot is nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times, but where it deviates is what Haneke does with it. What we get is a study of violence in the media, and how the depictions of violence shape our culture. While it's a noble move, Haneke isn't interested in subtlety-he'd rather lecture the audience with a sledgehammer approach, having characters constantly break the fourth wall and essentially ask you "are you entertained?" And that's the whole message of the movie-how DARE you be entertained by violent movies! It beats the audience with the message, and essentially chastises his audience for wanting to watch the movie in the first place. Here's the thing though-it's possible to make a movie that studies our relationship with violence without being smug and condescending-look at movies like "A History of Violence", which question America's relationship with violence in a complex, intelligent manner without scolding it's audience.

And it's a shame too, since Haneke is obviously a talented filmmaker, and he get's great performances from his cast. Watts in particular shines, and Roth does the best job he's done in years, while Pitt and Corbet make menacing turns as the psychopaths-notice I didn't say antagonists though, since Haneke is the real antagonist.

It's obvious that "Funny Games" has some things to say-it just says them all wrong. While trying to make a commentary on violence in the media, it spends so much time sneering at it's audience and preaching to it's choir that it forgets to be a good movie. This is the kind of movie that some will chastise other for "not getting it." I totally "got it" though-and that's why I didn't like it.

Rating: 3/10

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