Michael Haneke, one of my all-time favorite directors, released the original Funny Games in 1997. I remember first seeing this foreign language film my freshman year of college around 2004/2005. This was a time when I was really beginning to explore foreign directors and Haneke completely blew me away with this one. When I heard that Michael Haneke wanted to remake this as an English speaking film, I was very excited but also a little confused as to why someone would want to make the same movie twice. But when I thought about how American filmmakers tend to turn foreign hits into Hollywood fluff remakes, I was glad Haneke took the initiative to remake his own film instead of letting someone else get their hands on it.
Michael Haneke writes an unforgettable and haunting story about two young menwho take a family hostage in their own home. Home invasion films are a dime a dozen but the psychopaths in this film are so different than what you would expect. Paul and Peter (if that is their real names) infiltrate themselves into the affluent summer home with grace and ease. Even when the violence begins, they keep a calm and strangely polite manner. Like serial killers on Xanax, they remain apathetic to the violence that they inflict. They want to play a game with this man, wife, and child; a game that the audience has the unfortunate opportunity to play with them (but fortunately from a distance). They make a bet that the family won’t be alive in 12 hours. There are moments in the film that the actors look straight into the camera, asking the audience what side they want to bet on. You hardly ever see this technique used, especially in such a serious and dark film, but it works dramatically to draw the audience into their evil game.
From the beginning of the film it is easy to tell where the plot will lead and knowing this creates an atmosphere of great unease and tension. Some people may view this film as running a little bit slow, but the fact that it feels like it is in “real time” gives it a much more realistic aspect, letting the agonizing torture really sink in before it goes to the next scene. This normal family makes it easy to imagine yourself in their shoes. It would be so degrading as a man and husband to watch these two psychopaths harm your son and sexually harass your wife, as you are left to watch in utter uselessness. The poor son will never be the same if he survives the night. Each time Paul looks into the camera it is like he is looking into our souls and it gives me chills every time. Funny Games is, simply put, cold and heartless. The remake is exactly like the original (except with different actors) which gives testament to Haneke’s fine filmmaking skills that he believed he didn’t need to change anything the second time around. If you are trying to decide which version to watch, watch both. It is a rare opportunity for the chance to compare remakes by the same director.
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