Saturday, April 17, 2010

Funny Games (2007)

Michael Haneke's Americanized version of his own internationally acclaimed film is quite literally a shot-for-shot remake, with every single character movement and reaction decided well in advance. While this calls into question the validity of remaking the sensational and shocking first film, the original FUNNY GAMES would stand very little chance for success in an American wide release in its original language and without big named actors attached, so it is not as unexpected a remake as it is redundant.

The main reason audiences around the world were willing to accept the often unnatural dialog and off characters in the German language film is due much in part to the fact that the it was foreign, which allowed viewers to suspend disbelief by assuming that the formal sentence structure could be attributed to language barriers between cultures. In the English version, though the words themselves have been fully translated, the language and formal sentence structure do not carry over in to standard every day vernacular, making the dialog between the characters even more awkward and unnatural. This generates a rift distancing the audience from the events on screen, since they do not reflect our reality. Haneke also decides to eliminate the score entirely, forcing the viewer to confront the carefully constructed character exchanges and focus intently on them.

Like in the recasting of Damien in the THE OMEN remake, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet are too expectantly evil in the roles of Peter and Paul. Their arrival leaves no question as to their intent from the very beginning, so the jarring change in gears exhibited in the original film is completely lost here. The rigid, robotic acting of the entire cast can more likely be attributed to Haneke's direction and clear stylization than to the actors' performances.

The striking commentary that was imbued in the earlier version remains intact in the US film, and it is just as hypocritical that the remake continues to use sensationalistic violence as a tool to make a social critique against violence in the media. In breaking the 4th wall and having the villains address and directly interact with the audience, Haneke constantly poses the question "If you are so shocked and disgusted, why do you continue to watch?" in a series of direct attacks against violence as a form of entertainment. His weapons take on the pseudonyms "Tom and Jerry" as well as "Beavis and Butt-head" at different points throughout the script in reference to the more extreme cartoon characters that have directly and indirectly influenced societies and cultures around the world through their violent actions that constantly pass without consequence.

The purpose of the FUNNY GAMES remake was not so much to improve and better the film in any way, but rather to expose a far greater population to the plot and themes acted out in the original. By choreographing every detail in the exact same way as before, Haneke proves that the actors in his films are inconsequential to his script and style, however this second attempt at generating steam for the film in America still fell drastically short of its intended success. FUNNY GAMES remains to be more suitable as an Art House picture as opposed to an outright Horror film, but its terrifying themes and biting social commentaries still shine through in the US version.

Rating: 8/10.
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  1. Didn't care for this one. Shenanigans.

  2. Ive been meaning to ask you if you had seen the original or not Wings? I think the original is brilliant, but it really had trouble carrying over to the English version. Home invasion really home with me, and despite its flaws I still feel FUNNY GAMES US is a step above the average Horror film, coming in at a solid "B" for an 8/10.

  3. Loved the original. The remake was ok. On a weird sort of dare thing, I watched the versions back to back with a friend.

  4. I have a copy of the remake, but have not seen it yet. I do really enjoy the original film quite a bit, though.

  5. I have only watched the remake. From what I saw, I am reluctant to think I would actually like the original, either. Just didn't care for dichotomy of the film. "Serious stuff here... Oh, wait, no - gonna change that."


  6. That being the case I think youre right, I cant see you enjoying the original much more since few (if any) changes have been made whatsoever =D

  7. Didn't much care for this one myself. I found it pretentious and mind-numbing, so I haven't been able to steel myself up enough to try the original.


  8. Not a fan of this remake - and thanks for pointing out the dialogue problem, I thought that was just me.

  9. I never saw the original and only saw the remake on cable. I found it to be a depressing, gut punching experience. The title alone toys with audience expectations in several scenes where we "interact" with what's going on in the film including the bits where the killers ask us "what do you think are their chances?"

    I thought it was a brilliant, dark and daring horror movie that wasn't afraid to go against the grain in terms of how "a movie should be". It left me feeling empty when it was over especially in that these two child like serial killers were gonna do it again.

    But that's what I like about movies like this. They force you to look at things differently. No one gets out alive and the stage is set for another family to be a part of the two youngsters gruesome games. It's not something I would watch frequently, but I am glad I saw it, and understand why so many people would dislike it.

  10. If you enjoyed the remake, I cant recommend the original enough V, it only heightens the experience and makes it much more unnerving thanks to superior performances and relieves the dialog issues mentioned above.

  11. This is a great review Carl. I haven't seen the original or remake. I've been curious, but I think it may just piss me off with it's thematic content. From reading the review, though, I couldn't tell if you actually liked the film. After reading through the comments, I gathered that you do, but not as much as the original unsurprisingly.

    I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to seeing it, but I'm glad I read your analysis!

  12. Honestly Im a bit torn on the remake Beckmeister General, I absolutely love the original, but I cant entirely dislike this remake since it is almost entirely the same film. Still, there is something that Haneke failed to achieve in bringing it to US audiences, subtle nuances that made the original stronger despite being the exact same film. I want to say I dislike the film, but I almost cant even do so without disliking the original if that makes sense? PLEASE watch at least the first film, as a student and a critic, I feel it will be an important watch even if you dislike it.

  13. The original is absolutely a masterpiece. The breaking of the 4th wall really is shocking the first time you see it as the violence onscreen desensitizes to you.

    Good review Carl...I've still yet to watch the remake but will one day to see how it turned out


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