Funny Games (1997) Poster

(1997)

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10/10
One of the most gripping films about the dark side of human nature
gogoschka-115 July 2014
This is one of those I nearly didn't watch (I thought it would be pseudo-intellectual drivel about the evil nature of video games) - I'm very glad I got over myself and finally did watch it one day. What an amazingly done film! I've never seen such great acting in a German language movie (the film is Austrian - just to be precise); the script is full of surprises and the whole film has a tightness that is very rare; every little detail is in the right place.

Michael Haneke always likes to challenge his audience, but even among his more controversial films 'Funny Games' stands out. The story follows the logic of a nightmare; uneasy tension gives way to unreal horror as you stare in disbelief at what's happening on screen. This is one of the most gripping films about the dark side of human nature I have ever seen; pure cinematic entertainment and yet it goes beyond that (and stays with you long after you've finished watching). A masterpiece – 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite Films: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054200841/

Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
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10/10
unsettling, gripping movie
Flador19 January 2004
SPOILER: Okay... I just read most of the 144 user reviews.... Basically I wanted to make up my mind about this film, a film that is a very heavy load.

I've seen this movie 5 years ago, the good thing is most of the time you forget about (having seen) it but now and then you recall it. I can understand that many people hate this film, it is not nice to watch, the more when you see it in a theatre where the only chance to break its spell is leaving the theatre. Regardless if you leave or stay and watch it leave it beats you one way or the other. I fully agree with many other reviewers that I have no idea whom I should recommend it too. I am tempted to watch it a second time but didn't make it happen in 5 years.

Don't get me wrong. I think it is an excellent movie. It is also very disturbing and upsetting, I can't think of the right mood to watch it cause it'll take you down. And I think here is where the movie polarises. If, after watching, you find yourself deducting some message in the violence, and perhaps rethink violence - in both real life and movies - you will, well, also will have found some reason for this movies existence, if not - and it might be better if one does not - you will join in the 'crappiest movie ever chorus'.

I do however want to point out some achievement of this production:

*) The movie catches the audience in theatre. *) It does shock the audience but most of the violence is off-screen. You see more people dying in many fast-driven action movies. Only here you care. There is minor suspense, but I, personally, wouldn't put it into that category. (But then I am no horror/shocker/suspense fan and can easily err here) *) It's hard to compare it with any other movie (that I have seen). I am not sure if this is an achievement, but it's outstanding.

The reason I think Haneke made this movie. or, what I deducted from it is how far away violence and death are in our everyday lives today. While Hollywood - and other film productions serve them daily right in our living room, we hardly notice them anymore. Violence also sells movies, and we're meanwhile pretty used to that. Haneke also serves violence, and he dishes it next-door. He turns into a moral figure that asks the audience if they want more (after all me and you consume it every day) - and while HERE we want to say 'no please stop' he doesn't do our silent bidding. He pushes us down the drain, forcing us to deal with aspects of the violence we don't (want to) see. He even goes one step further. He offers us a 'good' ending, a payback that would make it easier for us to bear the movie, only to snatch it back and rip us of any cheerful emotion, telling us like 'no, sorry, here it doesn't work that way'.

I also read reviews mentioning the unsatisfying (often used, cliche) end. One more time Haneke manages to disappoint us, so far we were driven and didn't know what would happen, what to expect.

Only in the ending, we see it coming, and so it ends, obviously similar to many other movies. We're back standard movie stuff, the arc bent and the connection made.

"Funny games" is everything else but the title. Perhaps it refers to the funny games built on standard film violence in everyday movies. Perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps Haneke wants to stress that violence is a bad thing. Perhaps he's just sick.

One thing for sure, regardless if you like it, don't care, or hate it. You might have seen something somewhat like it, but nothing similar.

If you hate shockers, don't watch it. It will only be torture. If you love suspense, sorry, only very little gore here.

If you plan to watch it, calculate a few hours before you will manage to put your head to rest.

And don't watch it it personal crisis.

This movie will make you feel bad. If you watch it in a cinema, just look around. You're not alone with this feeling.
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ah well, screw it
Jonathan Rimorin23 May 2003
I saw this movie again last night, for the third time, and once again had to keep watching each torturous minute until its chilling end. Going through the comments index, I see the expected responses: it was boring: it was pointless: it was too long: it's a satire: the games aren't actually that funny: it involved the audience in a neato way: it's nothing new: it's been done before. So I here offer an interpretation to add to the cacophany of reactions that FUNNY GAMES seem to engender.

What this movie reminds me of is the Book of Job, in the Bible, where God and Satan decide for their own amusement to torture this guy Job, killing his family, racking him with boils, and various other divine amusements. While watching this movie last night, I thought of another reference, this time from "King Lear": "Like flies to wanton schoolboys are we to the gods;/ They kill us for their sport." What this movie does is challenge the audience's own involvement in visual narrative -- usually, we watch movies from somewhere on-high and omniscient; we're invisible but we see all; we're voyeurs, just like God. In Haneke's film, we identify not with the victims but with the all-powerful killers as they set about their funny games. The two polite young men are performing their entertainments for us, the viewers; they're slaking our bloodthirst, our desire for gory spectacle - - after all, isn't this why we watch movies like this in the first place? Haneke, however, doesn't play the usual evasions; he makes explicit the audience's participation in violence; and he forces upon us the need to take responsibility for it.

I find this fascinating. I also find the negative comments here fascinating as well -- "not violent enough!" "the victims deserve to die..." "all the violence is off-screen..." "no gore at all, 'LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT' did it first, with more blood...." etc. as being inadvertantly revealing of those viewers' psyche. I especially love the comment made by that one Viking guy, who writes that Haneke's film has "no point," and goes on to say "...I just hope those people break into MY house, so I can break them in two!"

I think Haneke made his point.
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Strangely captivating...
dan_kenyon25 May 2003
First things first, Michael Haneke HATES Quentin Tarantino's films. He hates the way violence and death are shown as being 'cool' - Cool gangsters executing their enemies whilst saying cool lines (And you will know, that my name is the Lord! etc,etc)with a cool song playing in the background. This is not how violence is in the real world, violence is a horrible fact of life, not a glamourous thing for youths to copy, and I think Haneke intended Funny Games to show it how it really is. I watched Funny Games without the slightest clue what the film was about, so I just had to sit back and take it as it comes. At first, I wasn't too impressed. I thought the scenes were too long and dragged out, yet at the same time, I felt a strange feeling of suspense. The incredibly long camera shots leave you that bored, that you think "Something bad is going to happen soon, I can tell...". The suspense also lasts right through the film 'til the very end. You don't want to watch it, but at the same time, you feel hypnotised by it.

I will not detail any events of the film, to save spoiling the atmosphere, but I will note one thing that people tend to be confused about:- "Why did the family let them into the house in the first place?" The two characters of Peter and Paul are let to walk all over the family because of one flaw in the bourgios psyche - 'The more polite a person is, the better a person they are.' This absurd way of thinking is played on by Peter and Paul and they obviously score, plus 'getting into the house without breaking in' is also one of their 'games'.For those who haven't seen the film, I definitely wouldn't recommend this for a night in with the parents/girlfriend, but I definitely would for people who want to see the difference between death and Tarantino-glam. Prepare for a highly suspenseful yet sickeningly violent, non-Hollywood, edge-of-the-seat piece of art. 8/10
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10/10
Thought Provoking or Condescending?
graham_52510 January 2009
I think there is a valid argument to make that the universal visceral impact that Funny Games has on audiences undermines the very thesis of its director Michael Haneke. I use the word thesis very deliberately because Funny Games is an intellectual academic statement. Plainly it is not an entertainment movie but I don't consider it to be an art film either. Haneke intended it to be neither in my opinion. I think he intended it as an assault on both Hollywood and the audience. It's the cinematic equivalent of punk. Rock music against rock music. This is an analogy Haneke draws the audience to himself by overriding the classical music Anna and Georg are listening to with some extreme punk music on the sound track. We are left in doubt that the world of Funny Games belongs to Peter and Paul. Anna and Georg and their bourgeois taste in music are treated with utter contempt before Peter and Paul even appear on the screen.

Getting back to my original point: I think there are two parts to Haneke's thesis. The first is that Hollywood has commodified and sanitised violence and turned it into thrilling entertainment. Hollywood violence doesn't show the reality of violence or its consequences on those it is inflicted on. The second part of his thesis is that Hollywood's portrayal of violence has dehumanised and inured the audience and reduced their capacity for empathy and sensitivity. I fully agree with the first part of his thesis. The problem is most people do. I think you would be hard pushed to find any reasonably intelligent, educated person who doesn't agree with Haneke in this regard. Anyone who doesn't isn't going to be enlightened by watching Funny Games. On this point I can't help feeling that he preaching to the converted.

It's the second part of his thesis that he inadvertently undermines. Haneke set out very deliberately to make violence real again so that the audience feels it in their gut. Funny Games isn't real violence though. It's still just a film. However it is a film that manages to make a huge impact on an audience well accustomed to watching violence on the screen. This clearly indicates to me that audiences are smart enough and sensitive enough to be able to tell the difference between Hollywood trite and a convincing portrayal of violence. You could argue that Haneke had to resort to making such an extreme film to have the intended impact on an audience dulled by years of cinematic violence. However Funny Games isn't actually that violent. Compared to the average Arnold Swarzenegger movie it's actually quite tame in both the quantity of violence and how graphically it's portrayed. What makes Funny Games so disturbing is the emotional content in the impact and consequences of the violence on the victims. This is effectively contrasted with the casual approach, understated sadism and emotional shallowness of the perpetrators. If audiences were as lacking in sensitivity as I think Haneke is suggesting then surely Funny Games would have simply have been accepted as another piece of horror entertainment.

Haneke said something along the lines that anyone who stops watching before the end doesn't need Funny Games, anyone who watches it to the end does need it. This strikes me as thoroughly arrogant and is quite wrong in my opinion. Nothing can be implied about anyone who watches it to the end and there is no such thing as a film that an audience needs. Funny Games is a superb piece of cinema and there is no doubt that Haneke was fully successful in what he set out to achieve. However what exactly is it that Haneke thinks that the audience needs from it? As I said earlier most of the audience already understands the point he is making about Hollywood. It seems to me that Haneke is trying to shame the audience into realising how immoral they are for watching violent films. I fundamentally disagree with him if this is his intention. Personally I have no problem with the cartoon violence of Hollywood for the very reason that it is lacking in any real emotional content. It would seem that Haneke not only has a problem with the cartoon violence in films but with actual cartoons. Both Tom and Jerry and Beavis and Butthead are referenced in Funny Games. If Haneke is seriously suggesting that Tom and Jerry cartoons are a moral problem then he is beyond ridiculous.

Having said all this I still give Funny Games a 10 out of 10. Whether we agree with Haneke or not he made us react, think, defend and argue. He also made a truly remarkable film with some of the most heart breaking and profound acting I have ever seen. Funny Games a deeply intelligent film and I don't doubt Haneke's total sincerity and moral integrity. I just don't necessarily agree with him.
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6/10
Muddled Dialectic
japs4 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Funny Games was certainly thought-provoking. Haneke seems to have enough knowledge of film to infuse this movie (and most of his films to be honest) with a whole range of plays on established conventions within the thriller genre. And these on the whole worked quite well. I found the intellectual argument he puts forward less convincing though.

It appears his view is that we are all advocates of violence. The 'rewind' scene sets up the conventional retribution that normally proceeds the kidnap and torture sequences (see Straw Dogs etc). He doesn't allow us that outlet however, although he draws attention to it, thereby allowing us to examine that desire further. And the conclusion, one can draw. Yes, we call for acts of wanton violence to be administered upon arbiters of violent acts. There is a further link, I feel, he is trying to make from this position and that is this desire to see violence administered is somehow responsible for the violent world we live in. (There is, of course, another line of argument running through the film about the true visceral nature of violence but that's for another post)

I don't feel this is credible however. When a cinema audience calls for blood in a movie, I feel it is from a position of being completely aware that the narrative they are viewing is an artifice. People aren't going to be really killed. Hence, they can observe the violence being carried out in a 'comic' manner (bad guys getting shot in Westerns without a bullet hole appearing etc) and not have their disbelief in the fantasy world of the film suspended. This isn't misleading I feel, and doesn't inure people to the reality of how brutal and ugly real violence is. After all if one takes that approach then one can argue that Tom and Jerry cartoons suffer from the same problem.

I think where he may have a point, is in the manipulation of actual real-life events to make them less unsettling to an audience. I'm thinking of the Western news reports of Iraq, where disturbing footage of atrocities are cut so the Western viewer doesn't become upset or disturbed about what they're watching. This DOES desensitise the viewer to what war is about because the fact/fiction boundary has been crossed and we can't fall back on the intellectual safety nets I talked about earlier. And why is that a bad thing? Because our government is committing these acts and we have a duty to see the full horror of what they are doing in our name.

Any thoughts?
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10/10
George: Why are you doing this to us? Paul: Why not?
Galina7 August 2007
Watching "Funny Games" (1997) directed by Michael Haneke for the first time was an unforgettable visceral experience. It was the horror that really scared, devastated, and stayed with me long after the final scene was over. I can't easily recall another movie that made me go through the same emotions as the innocent victims in the movie did, to feel the same helplessness, hopelessness, despair, humiliation, and horror. I could not stop thinking of how illusory and fragile nature of happiness and safety is and how easy it is to shatter and destroy them. Is it a blessing or curse not to know what lies ahead and not be able to change the future? It's been several years since I saw the film but it still makes me shiver just to think about it.

"Funny Games" can be first mistaken for yet another conventional thriller where the good guys always win in the end and the evil is punished. Wrong, not by Haneke. He shocks you, he hits you in the gut, and then, he shocks you again. Haneke's is a true horror for his monsters don't look like the creatures from hell. No, "they are among us", they are nice and polite, well read, shy and ironic, they have the names from the new Testament, Paul and Peter, they talk with the soft refined voices but they are monsters nevertheless who have no regard for a human life and who want to play their sadistic funny games to the extreme.

"Funny Games" is a controversial film and I've read many reviews and comments that call it "a failure", accusing the film and its creator of not having said anything new or original on the connected subjects of violence, the media, and voyeuristic audience. It may not be a new or original subject Haneke dissects in his film but how he did it, his matter-of fact approach to the material and the seemingly unemotional manner affected me deeply, and I don't think I would ever forget this film.
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10/10
Genius
Danny_G1318 January 2007
Psychological horror masterpiece presses all the right buttons to disturb at an epidermal level.

On the surface of this movie, the mere plot about two psychopaths terrorising a family doesn't seem to be particularly interesting, or critically, original either. Indeed, the fact that the entire story takes place in pretty much one place would suggest it might struggle to capture the viewer's attention, certainly for its duration.

However, the simple combination of the mechanics of the performances, the script and the general tension make this story work outstandingly well; indeed, its isolated feel simply adds to the overall claustrophobia.

Peter and Paul are two apparently genial young men, who show up at the isolated boathouse of Anna and Georg, a mature couple with a child, who are all taking a couple of weeks holiday.

When Peter seems to be making a nuisance of himself, Anna starts to lose her patience with him. Paul then arrives on the scene and before long it has converted from an underbelly of irritation to outright intimidation, followed by crude violence.

It is extremely hard to sum this movie up without making it sound like a highly unoriginal piece of cinema, but there can be no question it is anything but.

The script is simply incredible; the overtone of terror slowly creeps up on the viewer, and on Anna and Georg, with more than a dose of psychological manipulation. Almost by pretending they are doing nothing wrong, with more than a hint of cordiality along the way, the two perpetrators manage to inflict a disturbing level of fear upon the family, and yet it is the most subtle form of assault.

Rather than constant threats, the two act like dinner guests who just happen to be terrifying the heck out of their hosts.

When things go further, and violence joins in, it takes the trauma to a new level, as it is gritty horror rather than a splatterfest. These are two psychos who take intimidation, violence, and all round fear to a thoroughly psychological pane.

The movie is also laced with some deliciously dark humour, with a few addresses to camera by Paul, who steps out of the character and joins the viewer on occasion. Absolutely marvellous.

However, it cannot be forgotten that the performances all round are simply outstanding. Each actor plays their part to perfection, and hats off to all - the victims were especially convincingly terrified, and the perpetrators frighteningly cool.

Haneke, the director, delivered a masterpiece with this. It's not conventional, doesn't end traditionally, and makes superb use of direction to construct an honestly masterful affair.

Highly recommended, but it should be noted it's not for everyone.
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relentless but rewarding
jdquinn-19 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening credits, "Funny Games" is already playing tricks on the audience: as the film's family/victims drive to their summer home, listening to classical music, Haneke splices freakout thrash metal over shots of their unsuspecting faces. But what truly impressed me about this film wasn't the slight gimmicks (of which there are plenty, some more successful than others) but the muted, unobtrusive style in which the film is shot. Extremely long takes (like the first egg scene, or the harrowing, sparse shot of the father sitting in his living room floor, howling for his dead son) combined with elegant cinematography and lighting ( I liked how quite subtly the family's first interrogation grew darker and darker, until Paul commented upon it and turned on the lamp) never makes the camera feel an aloof presence to a choreographed scene. That is, until Paul turns, and in a Goddardian aside, winks knowingly at the camera's eye. At which point the audience is instantly implicated in the vicious proceedings.

It seems here that most people get caught up in trying to explain the film's intentions. "Funny Games" isn't a film so much as a cinematic exercise in the spurious shock of violence on the silver screen. Gone are all the scapegoats of plot or genre conventions that would help make the audience feel vindicated or justified in watching, say, a man get shot because earlier he raped the film's protagonist, etc. But Haneke's film doesn't shock for the simple exploitative aspect either. When the mother is forced to strip before her torturers, the audience is kept just as blind to the proceedings as the young boy. Likewise, we don't witness the child's murder, but hear it off screen, as Paul is making himself something to eat. The films shock therefore comes not only from the brutal torture scenes but the intense apathy conveyed not only by the purposeless killers but the lack of cinematic conviction commonly combined with narrative violence, a point all the more reinforced with the film's final murder.

As Peter and Paul are sailing back into the harbor, Paul comments how seeing violence in a film is no different than witnessing it in real life. The violence portrayed in "Funny Games" is so unnerving not because of any excessive display of exploitative gore, but for the exact opposite: the banal regularity of which such atrocities occur. "Funny Games" is anything but...but as is proven by the scores of reader responses, it's sure to provoke some reaction. Whether you think its fascinating or revolting, regardless it makes you think.
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10/10
Gut-wrenching horror
Renaldo Matlin14 March 2002
As opposed to Oliver Stone's speculative box office hit NATURAL BORN KILLERS, that actually made us laugh and thus destroyed the whole threat of violence, Michael Haneke's FUNNY GAMES turns the art of cinema into a loaded gun. The movie hits you below the waist time after time, until you feel as helpless and molested as the characters on-screen. And thus Haneke's point that "violence is bad" is made terribly clear.

Not an easy task, but Haneke pulled it off like there was no tomorrow, and for that he deserves our praise in a time when violence is synonymous with entertainment.

See FUNNY GAMES - if you dare!
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10/10
Disturbing and uncomfortable, but a masterpiece!
tankjonah25 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Haneke's film Funny Games is far from an enjoyable movie as the family are tortured and humiliated in a frighteningly realistic manner. However, as an exploration of cinema violence, subversion of the conventions of the thriller/horror genre and the role of audience as voyeurs complicit in the actions on screen, this is a masterpiece. Almost all of the violence and humiliation inflicted on the family is off screen, the agonizing cries of the victims are horrible enough.

The plot is simple. A wealthy family (Susanne Lothar as mother, Ulrich Muhe as father and Stefan Clapcynski as 8 year old son) arrive at their secluded holiday home. Soon after, a young man (Frank Giering), seemingly a friend of the neighbour, arrives asking to borrow some eggs. When he is soon joined by his friend (Arno Frisch, who played Benny in Haneke's earlier film) the two attack and terrorize the family.

Frisch and Giering treat the situation as a game with rules that should be followed. Hence, after Giering wrongly shoots Clapynski who should (according to the rules) have been left alive after being counted in, not out, the two men briefly leave. Refreshingly, it is Muhe who breaks down sobbing uncontrollably after his son's death and it is his wife who comforts him, rather than the reverse as the convention of the genre so often dictates. Throughout the film Haneke revisits his theme of the audience as voyeurs by having Frisch speak directly to the camera (i.e. at us). This may disconcert some, but it is here that the film identifies itself more as an essay on the thriller/horror genre and its conventions, than as violent spectacle for the masses to lap up. Indeed, the majority of the violence is off screen further subverting expectations of audiences desensitized to accepting periodic killings in many a Hollywood thriller. Frisch asks us what he should do in certain situations. He also asks us who we bet on to survive. We're all rooting for the family he tells us. Indeed, given the conventions of the genre we should expect them to survive.

The most unexpected, unusual, audacious and possibly groundbreaking moment in the film totally evidences the fictional construction of film, here explored in a different way to say, Bande a Part (Godard, 1965). Here, Lothar manages to snatch the rifle and blow Giering away. Frisch then confiscates the rifle, pushes her aside and then screams for the location of the remote. When he locates it, he rewinds what we have just seen, bringing Giering back to life and preceding to thwart Lothar's effort. This scene may be interpreted in several ways. For the briefest of moments the audience is given what they want to see - the convention of the genre is fulfilled - before Haneke audaciously and cruelly says sorry, screw you and your expectations of the genre. That the film had effectively been thwarting audience expectation throughout, can be evidenced by the fact that when I saw the film various audience members cheered when Lothar killed Giering. Stunned silence and nervous laughter followed Frisch's action with the remote. The scene may also be interpreted as titillation (indeed it is the most explicitly violent moment in the film) which erodes the film's point about violence in film being used as gratuitous entertainment (a view I don't espouse). Finally the scene may also be read as a further point about thwarting expectations that we've all acquired by watching thrillers. Haneke's interest in subverting convention can also be seen via the relationship depicted between the two killers. Frisch often refers to Giering as "Fatty" much to the latter's annoyance. This is another means to cue audience expectation. So often, as in Scream (Craven, 1996) for instance, killers working together can become their own worst enemies, ultimately leading to their downfall. Here Giering's displeasure doesn't lead to the two turning on each other, further subverting the expectations and hopes of an audience accustomed to 'the wicked being punished.' Indeed, Haneke refuses to give the audience any simple reason for the behaviour of the killers. Unlike, the multitude of Hollywood thrillers where the killer is revealed to have a history grounded in psychological or sociological disturbance, drug abuse or poverty, Frisch and Giering's characters clearly do not fit into such simple and naïve categorisations. Indeed, throughout Funny Games both killers are referred to as Beavis, Butthead, John, Paul etc, presumably to present them as diverse and non-classifiable. Both are articulate and polite, neither is looking for their next fix and neither are poverty stricken. Rather than depicting the killers as the 'other' Haneke presents them as white, middle class, well dressed and intelligent. The only recent Hollywood film that springs to mind which draws such a complex and disturbing killer is Se7en (Fincher, 1995). Ironically, the denouement in that film dared to subvert expectations and yet (its predictability not withstanding) is considered by some critics to be a weakness.

The performances in Funny Games are excellent; Lothar and Muhe particularly stand out. Haneke has created a brilliant, audacious film which is a must see for any serious film buff interested in a commentary on film violence and its effects. The film will invariably stimulate discussion and/or argument amongst its viewers.
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1/10
Sick, disturbing but interesting
preppy-327 October 1999
Warning: Spoilers
A family is terrorized by two psychos in an isolated vacation house. That's the whole plot. The movie is sick, degrading and sadistic (people walked out when I saw it)--but it won't leave me. I saw it a few years ago and I still can't shake it. It is well-directed and extremely well-acted and it is horrifying. My guess is that it's trying to show how madness and evil can show up anywhere at any time and how any one can be destroyed. But there's one aspect of this film I HATE. One of the killers keeps turning to the audience and making comments like, "You want to see more, don't you?" It seems it's implicating the audience and pointing out that they are just as responsible as the killers for these people being degarded and tortured. In other words we're guilty of watching this. I don't buy that for one second. If that's true, what does that make the director who directed this? He made this violent sick movie...but that's OK? He's clean because he's not watching? That's bull. Also, when one of the killers is shot and (hopefully) killed the other REWINDS the movie to save him! That's cheating and a pretty dumb device.

Still it does stay with you, but do you really want to sit and watch a family being terrorized AND be blamed for it? View at your own risk.
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5/10
Indulgent Games
kenjha15 October 2010
A couple of psychos terrorize a family at its remote vacation home. Frisch makes a scary villain, but the three actors playing the family are not very convincing, with the couple's nonchalant attitude towards their son particularly odd. Haneke is not so much interested in creating a thriller as in showcasing his indulgent brand of filmmaking. Here the German director has his villain break the "fourth wall" with asides to the audience. While such a device is fine for comedy, it is wholly inappropriate for a serious film. There's a scene where the screen is basically frozen for about ten minutes. And then there's a scene with the remote control that defies explanation. Pure indulgence.
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Phony-baloney provocateur
matt-2015 June 1999
A pair of polite, bland-ish German teenagers encounter a woman, her husband and son in a remote lakeside cottage, then spend the night terrorizing them with "funny games." The set-up is identical to that of Elia Kazan's THE VISITORS, both versions of DESPERATE HOURS, and many other claustrophobic thrillers; but the feeling of the picture is that of a hundred-minute-long extended dance remix of the ear-slicing in RESERVOIR DOGS. The writer-director Michael Haneke has one ace up his sleeve: the handsomer of the two sociopaths is given asides to the camera, on the order of, "You are on their side, aren't you?"

The point of all this, apparently, is that the audience is implicated in the action, because we, as pop-culture consumers, consume torture and protracted murder as entertainment. But there's a flaw in Haneke's logic: the only time we consume torture and protracted murder as entertainment is in recondite European art films like I STAND ALONE, MAN BITES DOG, and FUNNY GAMES.

This is the kind of picture that gets bluenose types all huffy, and prone to pronouncements on the order of, "This is the most repellent movie ever made!" I'll stay off that high horse--but I will say, a few hours after seeing the picture, that there is something singularly loathsome in the hypocrisy of Haneke's coating a suspenseless piece of fictional snuff porn in the sanctimony of its being a Statement on Violence and Media. Haneke makes the victims as dull and uncharacterized as the victors; removes just about any plausible means of escape or table-turning; and subtracts any reason for us to care about the outcome, except our desire not to witness hideous suffering. What's left--an orgy of S&M-like abuse--certainly does make the audience squirm. But so what? So would a videotape of anonymous torture, or the capture and abuse of an animal. FUNNY GAMES doesn't exist on a political or philosophical level (like I STAND ALONE); its attempts at mordant humor are collegiate (unlike MAN BITES DOG); it certainly doesn't hold up a mirror to a junk-food culture (like NATURAL BORN KILLERS). It's a wallow. And you know what side the filmmakers are on when one of the sadists terrifies a little kid by slipping on a CD in a neighbor's house the kid has escaped to, and the music is that well-known favorite of middle-aged bourgeois people on vacation...John Zorn and the Naked City.

This kind of Extreme Cinema has worked much better when practiced by artists in totally disreputable sub-pulp forms--like Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deodato, whose sometimes almost unwatchable films engage in a spiritual wrestling match between the desire to go to the limits, and the conscience that watches over the mayhem. I was shocked to discover that Haneke is nearly sixty--this picture has the sensibility of a kid turned on by the autopsy pictures at Amok Books. As he sticks bamboo under our fingernails, your mind is so unoccupied it asks other questions. Like: Why would any sane family entertain for a minute two young strangers wearing fingerprint-proof gloves in the middle of summer? And: Is the actress playing the mother this terrible because no one else would take such a degrading role?
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1/10
The worst kind of serious film
lexo177021 February 2008
I watched 'Funny Games' out of interest mixed with skepticism, because I had read a lot of the director's comments about how if you couldn't watch it all the way through, you didn't need to, etc. This seemed to me like a remarkable high-handed attitude for a film director to take, as if the inability to watch his film was somehow proof of the viewer having a more beautiful soul than that of somebody who can sit through the whole thing without dropping their popcorn.

I realised fairly quickly that 'Funny Games' is not a movie in the conventional sense of being a filmed dramatic fiction designed to give the viewer a satisfying aesthetic experience. Oh no. It's some sort of art gesture, designed to make Michael Haneke feel like he's doing something special, something higher than other film-makers.

I don't like Quentin Tarantino's films not because they are very violent, but because I find them boring; I don't like all the trashy B-movies that Tarantino is in thrall to, so I don't appreciate it when he cannibalises their plots and motifs for his own stuff instead of writing about real people. 'Funny Games' is nothing more than a humourless art-house version of a Tarantino movie, in which the smirking protagonists systematically terrorise a family and wink at the camera throughout, asking us if we want to keep watching. I kept watching because I was getting more and more angry at Michael Haneke's pompous disapproval of my viewing habits.

Why shouldn't we want to keep watching? It's only a movie. I am a fan of serious film directors like Robert Bresson, Michael Powell and Jacques Rivette, and I appreciate films that make me think, but I do not appreciate some pretentious fool behaving as though an essentially cheap exploitation film is making some sort of grand comment about violence in cinema. Haneke is an untalented, pretentious and humourless director who disguises his inability to tell good stories by tricking up his films with silly gimmicks that give intellectual film reviewers handy talking points. He did it with 'Hidden' and he does it here. He is a one-joke phony.

I am not the only person to find 'Funny Games' a stupid and intellectually indefensible waste of time, a B-movie with delusions of significance. Jacques Rivette, a real film-maker, called it a 'disgrace, a piece of s***' in an interview. I watched it all the way through. I came away depressed and demoralised by a world in which people think that s*** like this means something.
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1/10
Nothing
DRG31 December 2006
This is a slow and clumsy exercise in pointless violence. Think the rape scene in Clockwork Orange, but decontextualised and extended to feature length. Think poor acting, awkward dialogue and gauche 'metacinematic' features such as characters winking at the camera, referring to the audience and even rewinding the movie for an alternative take.

I read some of the positive reviews but I cannot see any of the redeeming virtues pointed out. The 'analysis of violence' excuse for indulging in carnage is perhaps the most overused in the history of recent cinema. Even if we buy this excuse, it is a poor movie. It is an analysis that doesn't say anything that hasn't been said before. The media angle has been exploited a lot better in movies such as Man Bites Dog (or even its poor rip-off Natural Born Killers).

More bad news: There is a Hollywood remake of this starring Naomi Wats about to be released. Same director.
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1/10
Nasty puritanical film, disguised as being Progressive
Bloomer4 October 1999
I saw this excruciatingly didactic flick at the 1998 Sydney Film Festival, and to say it made me mad is the understatement of the century! I would hardly describe it as a thriller or horror film, since these are the genres it seeks to deride; it's more a puritanical lecture than anything else.

What's going on in 'Funny Games'? Rich family goes to holiday house. Rich family is imprisoned, beaten, tortured and then some by contrived baddies devoid of any motive. These things are depicted graphically and usually in whatever is the most visceral fashion that the director feels he can get them across, with a particular emphasis on the lack of motive or happy closures, or any kind of relief for the audience. Now, toss in Postmodern self-referential stuff like having the killers wink at the camera (at US!!! OH MY GOD!!!) and talking about the audience getting enough entertainment - eg 'we'll keep beating em up cos there hasn't been a feature film's worth of violence yet' - blah blah blah, to say that we, all of the audience, are complicit in this violence, and you have a conservative faux-intellectual's fantasy.

The drawn out articulation of Funny Games' ideas is so blatant and methodological, that all I feel is this film's contempt for myself, and any other viewer who doesn't buy said ideas. And heck, probably just for the average cinemagoer who might see films to experience all kinds of feelings! It's getting up on a soapbox to attack what it would like to think of as gratuitously violent exploitation films, yet is itself an exploitation film in the worst sense. This film would have you believe that so-called 'motiveless' killings really are 100 percent motiveless. And if it's so progressive, why does it associate classical music exclusively with the family and extreme heavy metal with the bad guys? At every level, Funny Games likes to set up what it sees as high culture versus low culture in general (classical versus rock being just one instance) then says that all this low culture is junk culture and tied in with all this excessive violence that the film wants us to question in the cinema. Totally regressive!

It is probably also a film that's both hypocritical and preaching to the converted at once. As mentioned at the start, I saw this at the 1998 Sydney Film festival. Now, I know a lot of the people there wouldn't give a horror film, for instance, the time of day, believing that the genre was inherently inferior. Yet these same people were content to watch the didactic sadism of Funny Games, knowing that it's directed by an intellectual Austrian and will pat them on the back in the end and reinforce their viewpoint, which is that horror/violence in cinema is trash. I love horror films, and I think there's infinitely more humanism in feeling the fears they can elicit, in confronting your mortality, and in their sincerity and imagination, than in the one-note lecture and violence of 'Funny Games'.

I gave Funny Games my BLACK HOLE award for the film at that festival which SUCKED the most!!
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10/10
Two realities put into one
Dietrich Paterson24 February 2008
Mr Haneke seems to love observing family member characters dealing with extreme situations. On one hand we have a typical family which one could call civilized, and on the other hand two young violent sadists. The two worlds are opposed to each other, but then in reality they meet everyday in every part of the world. Their difference is the difference of classical music and black metal (both musical styles can be listened in this movie)...But yet, what is the difference of a normal humorous pretty bomber pilot with Paul and Fatty? They both guarantee a fatal sadistic without hope end. Maybe some people have these realities inside them too. Yet Mr Haneke did not present the beauty of violence as Hollywood movies would (mainstream or Tarantino), nor he directed an hymn to violence as it is clearly seen in "Clockwork orange". The "normal" watcher sympathizes the normal family. On the contrary in real life situation, maybe reading through a newspaper or watching TV, he would feel sympathy for them for 5 minutes. The power of "evil" is presented unquestionable. No hope can survive, even time rewinds and cannot beat the violent (re)actions of these young monsters. The personalities of Paul and Fatty are very interesting as in the end they express some questionable pseydophilosophies. What's their difference again with Nazis and current aggressive wars? Maybe this is a reference to Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux"... The movie can also be seen through the "shocking effect" theory. We question the strength of the family especially father’s protectiveness, but we miss the point that in reality people with normal lifes become easily victims, one can say they are conformists. The shock is less intense for a person who lives an abnormal life and is ready to protest against violence... The actors perform excellently. One must be ready for a "disturbing" movie no happy end, no cheap Hollywood violin music, no Deus ex machina, but as it was written above this is an every day incident...We cannot expect from people who are hypnotized all their lifes by "happy endings and superheroes" to credit this movie.
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7/10
a great thriller... as long as you ignore the director's pretensions
claudemercure15 March 2009
In this cross between Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and A Clockwork Orange, two insolent young psychopaths torment a vacationing family.

It was hard to organize my thoughts on this movie, never mind rating it. As a thriller, this is a tense, well-acted, and relentless experience, marred only by a contrived sequence two-thirds through in which characters behave in unbelievably stupid fashion. However, said sequence is preceded by an incredibly effective ten-minute take. Unusually lengthy takes are often deemed self-indulgent, but this one is anything but.

As an ideological statement, though, this film is a failure. And there is no doubt that writer-director Michael Haneke is trying to make a statement. By having one of the psychos address the camera a few times, saying things to the effect that they have to give the viewers their money's worth, Haneke is essentially wagging his finger at anyone who has ever enjoyed the portrayal of violence in a film. This theme is certainly open to debate, but the problem is that Haneke expresses it in such a condescending way. His harrowing treatment of violence already serves as an excellent counterpoint to other films that glamorize it. There was no need to then leave viewers feeling as though they'd just been lectured by a stern parent.

The last time a filmmaker made me angry, it was when I saw Independence Day, and it was for the same reason. In both cases, the writer and the director display contempt by assuming their audiences are idiots. My anger didn't really ignite, though, until I watched a short interview with Haneke on the DVD. It made me never want to see another one of his films. The man is disgustingly full of himself.

So why the relatively high rating? Because as pretentious and self-important as Haneke is, he is also very talented. The movie is very effective on an emotional level, and it's possible to watch it while ignoring the director's wrong-headed decisions.
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Too Difficult
tedg8 April 2005
I think this movie attempts something virtually impossible, and probably only a German filmmaker would be interested in this particular problem. Watching film is intrinsically exploitive. Often the cinematic exaggeration of entering personal space results in violence. What about this?

An intelligent exploration of this problem from the viewer's side is "Clockwork Orange." Therapy in that case is forced viewing of a movie, presumably the exploration from the filmmaker's side. This is that movie.

Because it is about itself, it enters into a conspiracy of awareness about itself with the viewer. The intruders wink at the audience. Just before the movie begins the phase where it starts to shape up as a movie, that intruder remarks on it not yet being a movie. At one point, the action is "rewound" to be replayed with a different outcome.

It is all very clear. But the challenge is not to remark on the problem, but to say something interesting or new or useful about it. That may be impossible, at least with normal narrative techniques, so this exercise is something of a waste.

The one interesting thing for me is the white gloves. Most commenters assume this is to avoid fingerprints, which goes against every motive we see. As it is the only noticeable costuming, one must conclude it is to denote the cartoonish element.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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8/10
Suffering? You ain't seen nothing yet...
Jonny_Numb17 June 2008
I watched this year's remake of "Funny Games" prior to the original, simply because its sick-with-irony trailer got me extremely curious. Granted, this goes against my usual process of viewing a remake's precursor prior to the remake itself, but I couldn't help myself. By the end, I was astonished by writer-director Michael Haneke's audacity in telling a macabre home-invasion story devoid of Hollywood glamour, humor, and mercy–remake or no, it's still one of the ballsiest exercises in visceral, reality-based horror ever released by a major studio.

So, when I decided to give the original "Funny Games" a spin (mere days after my viewing of American version), I was filled with presupposition toward how much I would appreciate the original (with the twists of Haneke's shot-for-shot remake still mapped out in my mind)–similar to a sadistic "bet" our captors make with their prey, I was wondering if this earlier, German-language version would survive on its own terms. And, while each version is practically identical (save for some subtle nuances in the performances, the slightly varied location design, and–of course–the spoken language), both quite miraculously carry the same visceral, jaw-dropping sucker-punches as the other. Unlike the much-derided American remakes of "The Vanishing" and "Les Diaboliques," Haneke sees no need to let either culture off the hook, especially when each has its own prominent history of violence, on- and off-camera.

Ironically, the references to metalhead couch potatoes Beavis and Butt-Head probably seemed like an incendiary bitch-slap to the passive glamorization of American filmed violence in the 1997 version, but there is an even stronger sense of irony when the MTV-hosted duo are referenced in the remake–on the shores that birthed them, and the cult following of Generation Y-ers that has accumulated in the years since the show's cancellation (a sure sign that our passivity, if anything, is more pronounced now). It's subtle observations like this that give both versions of "Funny Games" an added resonance.

If anything takes some getting used to in the 1997 film, it's the general unfamiliarity of the cast. After seeing a collection of familiar performers run through Haneke's horrifying 2008 experiment, the German cast begins with a studied approach to the performances that eventually loosens into hysteria and desperation that is just as convincing as their remake counterparts. It is truly stunning how Haneke mines the same static framing and intense performances to ends that are equally effective in both films (even knowing the outcome of a protracted long take following a pivotal off-screen event, I found the experience just as emotionally agonizing to witness).

While it may seem hypocritical to "side" with Haneke (at least in the context his film creates), especially when I patronize (and am prone to enjoying) films that frequently downplay the reality of human suffering, the effect in both versions of "Funny Games" is undeniably powerful–these are difficult, ugly, and emotionally draining films crafted with undeniable (and remarkably subtle) purpose. If there's any catharsis to be had from them, it will be in the introspection and assessment of your own attitudes toward violence.
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1/10
Awful
ultras757 June 1999
Yeah,I see the point of the director who tried to create the most frightening,chilling atmosphere ever made.But the film totally lacks of any plot,being only mindless violence.Beside,acting is terrible throughout the whole movie,and it only deepens the sense of boredom.One of the worst film ever seen:1,and I feel kind enough not to spend other bad words.
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3/10
Weak
Framescourer16 October 2007
A clumsy, groping attempt at a self-referential/fourth wall assaulting slasher flick. I'm pleased to be able to say that Michael Haneke has gone on to make an almost incomparably better film examining narrative, memory, assumption and fiction-or-reality in Hidden (Caché).

In Funny Games however, we are simply presented with an oil-black farce of manners which attempts auto-development by getting the principal maniac to talk to camera. That (and another couple of poorly executed ideas) is too little presented with too heavy a hand. There is none of the sleight of direction that characterises David Croenenberg's genre-kaleidoscoping A History Of Violence, nor the more thorough scripting of Man Bites Dog (C'est arrivé près de chez vous).

Haneke is spoilt with a freakishly committed, self-effacing central performance from Susanne Lothar as the mother. It can't disguise the film's shortcomings though. 3/10
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