Not rated, but I know a lot of people consider this top tier offensive, brutal content. I mean, I don't necessarily agree with that. It's a lot. It's a horror movie. It's a home invasion horror movie and that's very upsetting. There's nudity. There's sexual content. There's death. I think the "who dies" is more upsetting than the notion of death itself. These characters are tortured. But almost all of the violence happens off camera. There's language and the whole thing is upsetting, but is it the most offensive thing ever? I'll say no. Still, caution advised!
DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke
I've been afraid to watch this movie. It's not that it was scary. It's just that so many people said that it was so upsetting. I don't think I like upsetting. I don't like Eli Roth films. They're less about being scary and more about how upsetting the imagery can get. But very little about Funny Games is about the imagery. It's about how bad your imagination can get. I'm working through some anaylsis right now, so let's see if I can get to my point.
The two killers in this movie are monsters. If anything, they mirror some of the monsters that we've been dealing with in the news media. They are attacking someone to make them miserable. In this case, they don't know who they are directly, kind of mirroring the notion of a school shooter. They don't have this great motive necessarily. It's almost just this attempt to foster chaos. Now, maybe because the violence isn't shown, these two come across as the worst kinds of villains. After all, if it's not about the gore, then it has to be about the character. But I realize, especially during this spooky season, that every horror movie villain is Peter or Paul. It's just that we're so afraid of seeing what they'll do to someone or see what kind of surprise we can get, that we ignore that the bad guy is actually a horrible monster. It's actually weird that we would put Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers on a tee-shirt because we would never put Peter or Paul on a shirt. It would be borderline offensive to go that route. The fact that Peter and Paul are so grounded compared to the supervillains that we've glorified in horror movies might make them more upsetting.
I kind of want you to go into this movie blind. I'm not sure how much of this you should be reading. This blog has rarely been about trying to sell people one watching a movie. I've always kind of treated it as something that I would share with friends after watching a movie together. Guys, don't grow up. You never get to have late night movie gab sessions and you need to have a blog to vomit out your thoughts. But if you aren't going to watch this movie -or! better yet! --you've seen this movie and have thoughts, I'm going to talk about the meta element to the story. I'm not saying that it is the only thing that separates itself from the genre. It's just the one that might polarize audiences. I knew ahead of time that there was something complicit in the audience watching the movie. Because Paul continues to look at the camera and breaking that fourth wall, there's something a little off about the entire tried and true formula. I mean, it's not like the home invasion horror is the most common of the subgenres, but it isn't like this is the only movie that is about torturing a family. But because Paul gets us involved, we have to look at our complicity in this movie.
I'm a guy who violently (see what I did there?) advocates for pacificism. I'm almost irresponsible about being a pacifist. There's no way that society would function if I had my way about violence. Yet, I watch movies like Funny Games that pride themselves on making the violence as real world as possible. And, this might make it worse!, I really liked it. Like, this might be one of my favorite horror movies now. A part of that comes from the fact that I'm a bit of a snob and a subtitled German horror movie that comments on the involvement of the viewer exactly screams a guy who has a film blog. But this movie sells its premise without take a sledgehammer to the ol' noodle. There's a real devisive moment that I can imagine that a lot of people probably didn't care for. Right at the beginning of the third act, Anna turns the tables on Peter and Paul, grabbing a shotgun and taking Peter out. In that moment, Paul freaks out and looks for the remote. Originally, the remote was used to play Formula One racing way too loudly as people recovered from the death of the son. But when Paul finds the remote, the rewinds the film and stops Anna from taking control. Now, that seemingly comes out of nowhere. After all, there's a big difference between the Fleabag style fourth wall break and the ability to turn back time and affect the events of the story.
But that moment, for the sake of the story, reminded us that this is not a Hollywood horror movie. I know. The introduction of a seemingly impossible science fiction convention in a movie that is supposed to be grounded makes no sense. It might be the opposite of my argument. But Funny Games almost prides itself on the reality of a situation. What makes the movie haunting is that there is almost a Faces of Death quality to the whole thing. (I'm wholly against Faces of Death or even a celebration of that nonsense.) Funny Games reminds us that horror, as fun as it can be in the fantasy reminagining of what scary looks like, is meant to be upsetting. Victims practically never get the upper hand over killers. Many horror movies offer a happy ending, even if that happy ending is superceded by a tease for a greater horror. Anna grabbing the shotgun isn't reality. It's what happens in the third act of a horror movie becuase we need to have the good guys win. But that's a betrayal of the movie that we were watching up to that point. We're reading The Kite Runner right now with my seniors. Chapter 22, one of the more memorable chapters of the book, always kind of bugs me. For the sake of storytelling, Amir needs to fight Assef. But also, it doesn't read as realistic. It's almost a betrayal. I think that Funny Games is aware. It wants to remind you that this is the point where other stories take you left while reality takes you right.
Also, it is a commentary on its central theme / title of Funny Games. Paul brings up the central conceit. He bets that the family won't survive twelve hours. There's a gutsy long sequence where the killers flee the house and the parents, reeling from the death of their child, have the opportunity to escape and survive. I want to talk about this scene later, so remind me. (Again, I pretend that this is a conversation between me and my friends. How Funny Games of me to break that fourth wall.) The entire thing is a commentary on how this family has no chance to actually survive this. It's something that we've ignored in the genre, so we kind of take that notion for granted. But there's this scenario, planted in the back of all of our minds of "Maybe they'll survive." Paul even states, "How is it a game if we don't give them a chance to win." But that's the story. All games are rigged. If we really want to get philosophical, the boys represent death. Death comes for us all. As much as we struggle, it's still a stacked deck. When Paul rewinds the story, we realize that there's no hope for Anna. Anna becomes this survivor for no reason. It's why her death is unceremonious. The reason that she lasted until 8:00 am is not because of any choice on her part, but because that's the way things played out.
And now, this is the part I'm ashamed about. I had to prep for this part. I had to read his Facebook page and see how much he spiraled. The answer is "as much as I thought he would." I used to teach with a guy named John. John was as brash and stubborn as you can imagine. I think it was about the time of the Virginia Tech shooting that John came into the teachers' lounge and started spouting about how, if he was on campus, that guy would have been taken out by him immediately. He didn't know how people didn't react properly in moments of crisis. I responded and told him the reality of the situation and that it's all security theater and that everyone thinks that they would be the force that saved everyone when really, one in a million are the people who would do something. He didn't listen. So keep this in mind: I think I would do better than the parents in Funny Games. I know. They put the calm scene --the really long calm scene --to make us all play the game. I'm sure that I wasn't the only one screaming at the scene. But those two spend a lot of time on that cell phone. I mean, it was beyond the pale that the phone got as functional as it did. But they had this plan, run and get help. Why did it take them so long to run and get help? Heck, Anna even got ahead of me and realized that the gate would have been locked. Yet, she spent a lot of time on that gate. Even more so, I thought that the killers would have taken the boat. They totally didn't. Why not take the boat? You can escape in a boat. It's hard to play catchup in a boat. She could have gotten anywhere. Or, just go off the main road. Take a little longer; go to a place of guaranteed safety. Nope, she runs in the road. Come on.
But can I tell you the most haunting thing about the movie? I am shook by the way that they didn't call for help or give warnings when they saw other people. Now, the movie opens up with Paul with a friend of the family. The friend of the family doesn't let on at all that he's being taken hostage. I get the logic. He doesn't want Peter to harm his family. But there's the couple on the boat who sail up to see Anna. Then they reveal which house is theirs. Why not just wave them away before they get to land? Why insist on going in for hugs if you aren't going to share information? There's this irresponsibility on the part of Anna for not doing anything. You know that you aren't in trouble, but we lie to ourselves and say "This soon will pass." The same thing happened in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They knew each other's backstory and still, because of social convention, felt the need to put themselves in danger because that's what normal people do. It's upsetting.
Funny Games is top tier. It's really good. I knew of it from reputation, but I never heard anyone really preach it. But I like when a movie at least attempts to make me think, especially when it is a genre film.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.