Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 


Classical music plays on the car stereo, as Anna (Susanne Lothar), Georg (Ulrich Mûhe
) and their young son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) drive up to their idyllic lakeside holiday house. They make plans to go yachting and play golf with neighbours, everything seems set for a peaceful weekend away. But around sunset Peter, an apparently amiable if awkward young stranger, knocks at the back door and asks to borrow some eggs. This seemingly innocent request turns out to be the first move in a calculated and elaborate attack on the family mounted by Peter and his more suave friend Paul – an attack which gradually proceeds from polite intimidation to prolonged bouts of physical and psychological torture. As the immaculately courteous pair of psychopaths occasionally remind us, everything that happens is being stage-managed for the benefit of us, the audience. After all, aren't these elaborate scenes of violence what we've been waiting for all along?

"Since Michael Haneke's film is basically an attack on the audience, it's hard to talk about without seeming either defensive or obtuse. Haneke deliberately makes it impossible for us to separate his own 'funny games' from those played by his onscreen envoys, the smarmy hoodlums who spend the film torturing an innocent family for our delectation. Refusing to motivate his thugs in any psychological sense, Haneke instead stresses the constructed nature of what takes place. Peter and Paul literally wink at the cameras, inviting our complicity. At first ingeniously sinister, the film quickly becomes both distressing and insultingly cute, which is presumably the point. Haneke sets out to confront the audience with the ugliness of its desire for onscreen violence; Funny Games is a travesty of a thriller. (With its classical music, attractive scenery and well-bred, photogenic characters, it more maliciously travesties the bourgeois art film as well.) Individual viewers have to decide for themselves here, but I don't know that Haneke's strategic representations of violence and suffering are any less trivialising of real-life torture and murder than are the absurdist fictions of, say, Quentin Tarentino – who in turn isn't simply the flip sadist he's sometimes supposed to be. Which is to say that in neither art films nor Hollywood entertainment is it easy to depict evil while securely retaining the moral high ground. But it's precisely that unavoidable slippage and ambiguity that makes this fairly dubious film to some extent an interesting, troubling experience."
Jake Wilson

"Jake’s response to this film is probably not unique, and audiences will indeed have to do a bit of analysis and introspection on the proferred subject of screen violence. But I have a slightly different view. In his dreadfully uncomfortable film, Haneke has isolated a unique kind of violence and it is emotionally and psychologically vastly different to mainstream movie screen violence. To me, this rather defeats the purpose, because we are let off the hook; this is something OTHER. Worse, perhaps. This is extreme cruelty, and presented as coming from a psychological void: there are no reasons or motivations for the actions. There is one scene (I won’t spoil it) near the end where Haneke shows exactly what he means us to feel (physical revenge), but this is a single, isolated instance. Haneke’s calculating, often static camera, observes coldly, sometimes in extreme close up, often holding a shot for extended periods. The aftermath of violence, its effects on the innocent family, is what Haneke wants us to watch and experience, long enough to have it seep into our own psyche. It is superbly acted (especially by Susanne Lothar) and designed, the direction is single minded, but it will not make you feel good. Strictly for the dedicated film buff. Discuss."
Andrew L. Urban

"It's a mystery why this film was picked up for Australian distribution, as it remains another pointless, self-indulgent piece of clap trap on the nature of the media and its relation to violence. Two seemingly pleasant chaps invade a bourgeois family's country home and relentlessly torture them with devastating results. Ugly, mindless with pretensions of intellect, the film is an amoral, barbaric work that seems so out of kilter in a society addicted to senseless violence. The film was booed by the festival audience, an appropriate response."
Paul Fischer

Email this article


Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2

German with English subtitles

CAST: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mûhe, Frank Giering, Arno Frisch, Stefan Clapczynski, Doris Kunstmann


DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke

SCRIPT: Michael Haneke


EDITOR: Andreas Prochaska

MUSIC: not credited


RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020