Directed By: Michael Haneke
Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski
Some things are universally scary to people all over the world. The idea of home invasion is apparently one of those things as “Funny Games” covers that very subject and it was made in Germany.
A family, Anna, Georg, and son Georgie, travel to a summer home on a lake for a couple of weeks of sailing and relaxation. Upon arriving they notice that their neighbors seem a bit strange. After a few seconds of contemplation they drive on up to their house and decide to talk to the neighbors later. Anna begins to prepare the house for dinner while Georg and Georgie prepare a boat for the water.
Soon a peculiar young man shows up at Anna’s door saying he is friends with the neighbors and asking to borrow some eggs. Anna agrees and lets him step into the house while she gets the eggs. She only has one box of a dozen eggs but she gives him four. On his way out he drops them. He asks for four more and she reluctantly agrees. While he waits for the eggs he clumsily knocks the families cell phone into a sink full of water. He drops the replacement eggs outside and comes back into the house with a friend and asks for the last four. She refuses and they refuse to leave.
What follows is a series of brutal psychological and violent games played by the two home invaders on the family. The games start slowly, just plain annoying at first, then slowly becoming more and more terrible. Just when you think it is about to end the games continue. Much of what happens is left to the imagination of the viewer, and in my opinion that makes “Funny Games” a much more disturbing film than it would have been were it more explicit.
On occasion one of the home invaders would acknowledge the camera and the viewer “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” style. These actions further the feeling of being sucked into the games along with the victims and unable to save them. Through these acknowledgements I began to feel like I was an unwilling partner to the invaders. There is one time when the character steps out of his role to acknowledge the audience during the third act that is a little heavy handed and it really breaks up the flow of the movie. While I’m complaining I also really hated the score for the opening and closing credits. The loud brash noise doesn’t suit the story or any of the characters.
There are a couple of instances where the Director just lets the camera linger on the victims for many minutes as they sit almost stone silent and then crying. During these scenes the hopelessness really began to engulf me. I felt like I was lying on the floor beside Anna unable to move, unable, to help, and unable to comprehend the terrible event that had just taken place. This sort of lingering camera is used a couple of other times to great effect.
This is truly daring and extremely well executed filmmaking. There’s no social or moral subtext, there’s no comedy relief, and there’s no hiding behind hip cutaways to give us as the audience a break from the violence. It’s very hard to watch. One of the lingering shots I mentioned earlier goes on for almost ten minutes.
What really makes the story disturbing is there is no reason for these guys to do what they do. They never really steal anything; they just commit these home invasions one after another for fun. I found “Funny Games” to be a well acted very tense, disturbing story. There’s nothing funny at all about “Funny Games”. If you like “A Clockwork Orange” you’ll probably enjoy (is that the right word?) this film as well. Be prepared this is a real nail biter.
“Funny Games” is presented in a fairly nice non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a bit of grain and detail loss during nighttime outdoor scenes and black levels are a bit gray. The print is heavily covered in blemishes and I also noticed quite a bit of edge enhancement. On the upside, the muted color palette came through very nice and I noticed no major compression artifacts. For a foreign low budget film, not a bad transfer.
This is a pretty basic audio mix presented in Dolby 2.0. The rear channels only wake up during the songs played for the opening and closing of the film. The audio is mixed very nice though with great use of panning. The dialogue is clean with no sound artifacts or distortion.
The Bonus Features
My first complaint is this, the film is not dubbed and if you speak German you can’t turn off the subtitles. Mainstream audiences may pass this great film by because it has no option for a dubbed English soundtrack, and that is sad. Mainstream audiences need to see this film so they don’t think movies like “Scream” are great horror classics.
There is a very grainy trailer, some film credits, awards and filmographies for some of the actors, and that’s it. I would love to have seen a making of featurette or a director’s commentary to learn more about the origins of this film. Well, we are lucky to get to see the movie at all.
The DVD presentation could be a bit better but the quality of the movie makes up for the presentation. “Funny Games” is a fantastic piece of filmmaking if you can handle it. It goes into my top ten list psychological thrillers.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Move 9/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 6/10
The Bonus Features 2/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10