Funny Games: the invisible mirror of violence

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Paul and Peter, apparently two nice and quiet boys find themselves at the door of the summer house belonging to a wealthy family, where Anna, Georg and Little Georgie live. They claim to be guests of the neighbours, they just ask to borrow some eggs, like an excuse to start a conversation. The situation that occurs in the first minutes of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is the beginning of a story colourd white and red, where we can meditate on the effect of appearance and violence, transmitted as a form of entertainment on our screens. Much suspense awaits the spectator, who will keep his eyes straight on the screen in every single moment, going through the cascade of gruesome events that invest an unfortunate family in the mercy of two psychopaths. And they sometimes manage to be comical, even though their plan is to eliminate them by the end of the day.

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The protagonists of Funny Games, 2007 version

Funny Games is one of the examples of shot-to-shot film versions, where a movie is shot again, keeping the same, identical scenes of the original, but with different interpreters or actors. In this case the original version was released on 1997, same title and same director, while the most famous one was filmed in 2007. This is because, when it was presented during the 50° Cannes film Festival, the movie did not obtain the feedback wished by Michael Haneke, as the German-language film was not successful among that type of audience. He decided to start a remake able to deal with the English-speaking public, in particular the American one, the more compatible with this kind of violent and crude films. The first performers in the 1997 film were Susanne Lotar (Anna), Ulrich Mühe (Georg), Arno Frisch (Paul) and Frank Giering (Peter), where in the second version we have Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet.

The film has a strong reference, on the clothes and the behaviors of the two aggressors, to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange: even here, in fact, the protagonists are dressed in white as the famous droogs, and prone to free violence, in a sick mix of sadism and psychological terrorism. Tim Roth confessed that it was the most disturbing movie he ever played in his career, so much that at first, he didn’t want to accept the part. For that second version, the only condition imposed by Haneke was Naomi Watts as the protagonist, the “pure incarnation of the character” according to him. And there is another curiosity, even more gloomy: the movie is vaguely inspired by the case of Leopold and Loeb, in 1924, when two wealthy boys, 18 and 19 years old, misogynistic and megalomaniacs, kidnapped and killed an innocent kid, just for fun, just to escape the boredom of bourgeois life.

Michael Haneke, graduated in psychology and philosophy, knows how to draw attention to his works, always able to send messages of social condemnations, in a sort of reverse psychology (see also his Benny’s Video) close to some of Black Mirror‘s episodes.

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