Funny Games

Director: Michael Haneke.

Susanne Lothar
Ulrich Mühe
Arno Frisch
Frank Giering
Stefan Clapczynski

Date: 1997.

One Fall night, as I was zapping my TV, I heard some strange noises coming from it. They seemed familiar, but it took me some 5 or 6 full seconds for they to register as something I actually knew quite well: Naked City's Grand Guignol. Of course, this really caught my attention, and as these noises were being accompanied by images, I decided to put down the remote and prepare myself for a weird ride. I just knew this was going to be the sickest movie.

So as the opening credits roll by I start getting really confused because the actors all seemed to have German names (turned out they were really Austrian), and the movie is called Funny Games. "Oh, no!", I thought, "This can't be another of those countless EU-sponsored Candid Camera-like TV shows, not with this music!". It wasn't.

I wasn't very reassured when I saw an all-European family (mother, father and son), packing their bags and getting all ready to spend some days in a nice cottage by a lake. All around the lake were other similar houses, all (or most) with small piers leading to the lake and small boats attached to them. The grounds on which the houses were set looked big enough to give the dwellers therein more than a little of privacy and isolation. It's funny, though, that I didn't notice any golf course...

Anyway, when the father and son are away yachting, and the mother is getting lunch ready, a blond, awkward, kind of childish-looking psycho killer (and we all know they're the worst kind!), wearing yachting clothes and shoes and white latex gloves, comes into the kitchen, out of nowhere. By now, you know the family's gonna be in trouble. He keeps asking the mother for eggs, until she runs out of them. That's when he goes and gets his friend! (and you know that means BIG trouble!).

From then on the movie develops into a hostage situation where the family's got to make some really tough decisions (e.g.: which of them is to die first). The psycho-duo really has absolute control (which includes remote control). Half-way through the movie, there is some sort of a relief (though I'm not going to tell you what it is), but when you see a golf ball creeping in the hallway, despair really settles in.

The characters are all magnificently played, the emotions (or lack of them) show on everyone's face. These are all good actors, each doing and looking what they are supposed to.

As for the director, Michael Haneke, I found his work here beautifully disturbing. He manages to induce in the viewer a feeling of so deep a hopelessness that is unmatched in any other hostage-held scenario movie. Unlike one of his other films La Pianiste, in which the violence is mostly kept in a psychological level, here it spills to every level. Although you can't stay indifferent to this movie, when you reach its final minutes you don't have any other feeling you can resort to.

This is a really shocking and disturbing movie and you should avoid it if you have a heart condition, but I would recommend it to everyone else. Oh, yeah, and watch out for golf balls.


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