Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Postmodernism: Film Review on Funny Games (2007)

FIG.1: Funny Games Poster

Director: Michael Haneke
Producer: Hamish McAlpine
Year: 2007
Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart. 

Like in most of his films, the Austrian film-maker, Michael Haneken tends use extremity to illuminate social and psychological realities leaving his audience with a neutral feeling; Funny Games in this case is not an exception. It is a 'love it' or 'hate it' kind of movie. Despite its really graphics scenes at one point and its rather boring one at another, it can really make you think and can frustrate to you to the point that it will make you hate it, because it does not satisfy your likings for a film. Haneke succeeds in remaking this film, which was inspired by his original one back in 1997, and managed to win an Academy Award for this true masterpiece of the horror film genre. 

FIG.2: The mother meets the two white-clothed strangers.
Story-wise, Funny Games has a good plot to offer: a family of three move to their holiday cottage in the countryside when two young men wearing pure white clothes, enter their house, representing themselves as very polite neighbours but in reality are up for no good. Soon enough, the family becomes victims of the two young mens' appetite in punishing people. They face a slow, painful and nerve-racking death: a death that is more like a game for the two psychopaths, something that is part of their everyday lives and entertains them. 
As part of the horror film family, Funny Games is expected to have a great exposure of graphic, gory scenes- but surprisingly there is hardly any of them. The camera frequently stands still as the horror unfolds but we never see the bloody event from the victims point of view. Instead, we are shown the face of a passive witness. This technique of confronting the witnesse's horror-stricken face entices the viewer and instead of acting with repulsion towards the blood it reflects sympathy towards the  people who are exposed to it. Saur ,akes an interesting statement on Haneke's vision on violence: "For  Michael Haneke, the com-modificaton of media violence is a conspicuous symptom of the moral degradation,  in the post-industrial life style. His fi;m provide an incisive diagnosis of this condition." (Saur.2001:93)  In addition, every horror film is well known for is unique soundtrack. But in this case, Funny Games has no music at all and still succeeds in creating a great suspense. The only piece of music that is heard during the film is the classical music in the driving scene at the beginning and the heavy metal one the cereal killers play as they chase their victims around the house. Both types of music suggest a great contrast: the piece-fullness of the killers' behaviour and their real 'aggressive' self.
FIG.3: The psychopath killers torturing the son.
So why is this film considered as a postmodern one? In this film Haneke plays around with the audience's emotions. He keeps a tight rein on the audience's response, who meticulously manipulates emotions, like a sadist. The script might not be anything special but the way the film plays out is intriguing to viewers in an almost guilt-inducing way. The film is aware of what the audience expects from a horror film and Funny Games de-constructs horror and torture porn: it asks questions about its own format. So could say it is a Meta-fiction as it reflects upon its own nature and puts a big twist to it. This is more obvious at the scene where one of the killers faces the camera and winks at it. By looking out at the audience the actor addresses it directly as if he says: "This is what you want right? Torture and pain is what you want from a horror film, isn't it?" Cox claims that: "Haneke's film work well enough as realist horror for its audience-spooking to encourage reflection on the genre of realist horror." (Cox.2007:162) So this is how Funny Games is a great example of postmodern culture: it de-constructs; it pulls apart something which is already solid and reveals the pleasure of Art-Horror.
In conclusion, Funny Games is a mind twisting film to watch. It leaves the viewers with a huge question mark and will make you either love it or hate it. It is a very clever film and will definitely make you watch it more than once.


Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, Pamela S. Saur (2001).Visions and visionaries in contemporary Austrian literature and film. Peter Lang Publishing Ltd: New York.
Damian Cox, Michael P. Levine (2007).Thinking Through Film: Doing Philosophy, Watching Movies. Blackwell Publishing:UK

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