A double-bill of Michael Haneke’s notoriously provocative home-invasion thriller FUNNY GAMES, its original version and the US shot-by-shot remake made a decade later with a different cast, they are basically the same film, the only noticeable revision is a landline telephone would be plausibly upgraded to a cellphone.
Affixing death metal tohigh-brow classical music, FUNNY GAMES alerts us from the beginning of its irreconcilably conflicting parties in this game of torture and murder: the bourgeois nuclear family (emblazoned by their lakeside holiday residence and a private boat) versus two white-gloves-sporting, acedia-afflicted young psychopaths (whose backgrounds are completely in the shadows).
It is very interesting to watch how genteel etiquette disintegrates into hostility on a moment’s notice, and how it becomes a fortune to hostage if one is that prone to irritability yet not cautious enough to the consequences, although what is blatantly shocking is the want of clear motive behind these two amoral young men, who wallow in inflicting sadism and cruelty to innocent people, and are dangerously masked by a normal and friendly appearance. But after watching the same story twice (not recommended though), a viewer may sense something perniciously self-serving in the scene nearly the beginning, the couple can be cautioned by their friend (aka. the previous hostage), a warning out of desperation might not be a game-changer to overcome the perpetrators (who are in possession of a rifle), but at least, they can try to fight back and very likely break the vicious circle
Also one can second-guess that in lieu of complete resignation, the wife could have shown some bravura by jumping onto their neighbor's departing boat in the eleventh hour only if she knew it would be her last chance. To mitigate the ill-feeling stemmed from audience’s emotional investment of the beleaguered family, Haneke opts for a novel schtick by allowing one of the young wrongdoer Paul (Frisch/Pitt) to occasionally break the 4th wall and even play God with a remote control when an unpremeditated accident croaking his companion, archly takes audience away from their heinous act and nattering hogwash, renders a refreshing sensation of levity, which is a crying reprieve at that point of the narrative (after sending both a dog and a child to meet their makers out of Haneke’s convention-defying obduracy).
The film is violent no doubt, but mercifully we are spared from witnessing direct simulation of killing save its grisly aftermath, and it is fire and brimstone for the two leads, in the earlier version, the lateSusanne Lothar and Ulrich Mühe (who became a couple in real life after making this film)stupendously put themselves through the wringer of distress, terror and despair, command onerous brawn against physical hindrance (includingin a challenging long take lasting more than ten minutes), and Lothar notably drains all her energy into a traumatized state that’s too disturbing to look twice.The same impression is ineluctablyblunted in the remake, due to the vanishing thrill of reiteration, nevertheless Naomi Watts, undergoes the same ordeal with equally gutsy virtuosity but less apparel.
On the villain parts, a wide-eyedMichael Pitt totally and literally pales in comparison with Arno Frisch, whose bumptious self-assurance is simultaneously gnawing and sinister, whereas Frank Giering andBrady Corbet both make a good accomplice who is unpleasantly effete and morbidly creepy.
Teasing with the line between reality and fiction, the sick underside of human frailties often overlooked by the prim and the proper, Haneke’s succès-de-scandale is not for faint-hearted but an anglophone remake madein facsimile betrays his eagerness to unleash the bane on thosesubtitle-eschewing English-speaking Americans, a bespoke commodity speaks volumes of his faintly veiled intention.
referential points: Haneke’s AMOUR (2012, 8.4/10), THE WHITE RIBBON (2009, 8.0/10); Claude Chabrol’s LA CÉRÉMONIE (1995, 7.2/10); Robert Bresson’s L’ARGENT (1983, 7.2/10).