Funny Games US
, 04 May 2008
In 1997 Michael Haneke made a controversial and confrontational film about the nature of cinematic violence. As well as being a polemic, and an attack on the way violence is exploited in much horror and thriller cinema, Funny Games also worked as a hard hitting, disturbing and riveting thriller.
11 years on Haneke has taken the odd step of remaking the film, entirely faithfully, but this time in English. He has said that he did this because the film was always meant to be for the audience which usually attended mainstream horror films, but that the fact that Funny Games was in German had meant that they had not seen it.
In a way its hard to grade Funny Games US any differently than I did the original version, it is, after all, the same film, but that, in the end, is exactly why I have ended up giving this version a different grade than the first one.
Ive seen many remakes in the last few years, they have ranged from the excellent likes of Dawn of the Dead to the mediocrity of The Ring and the out and out miserable awfulness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but none has made me feel that Ive wasted my two hours the way Funny Games US did.
I own Funny Games on DVD, thus I could have sat at home and watched this film, only then I might have felt the experience had purpose and indeed a soul. All Haneke has achieved with Funny Games US is the worlds most expensive and elaborate dubbing job.
One has to be fair; the cast are good, but it is hard to credit them with their performances. If Naomi Watts had given this brutalised, exhausted, emotionally naked performance in any other film Id have been suggesting her for awards, but I cant do it, because this is not her performance, it is Susanne Lothars, to the last detail. So slavishly has Haneke copied his earlier film that the actors are not really acting, they are reduced to the level of children, mindlessly repeating what they have been fed, down to almost the very last inflection of a line. Its not merely the script and performances though, no, every camera angle, set, prop
dear Jesus even the jumper Watts puts on for the third act is the exact duplicate of the German film.
I really dont know who this film is for. It is still disturbing and claustrophobic enough to be denied a major release and so Haneke is still not going to get through to the mainstream gorno audience he clearly wants. Most of the people who will be at all inclined to see Funny Games US will either have seen the original, or be the type of audience that has no problem with subtitles, rendering the entire endeavour as purposeless as it is puzzling. If you havent seen the original then youll likely get some value out of this version, its technically unimpeachable, and extremely well acted, but it has been so for 11 years and the original film is the one you ought to see, rather than this colour photocopy.
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