Funny Games - Movie Review
Every horror film is a gamble as far as I'm concerned. I can either look forward to shielding my eyes for two hours, or shield my eyes later, that night, when I'm under my covers, and the monsters lurk menacingly in my shower. But there has been a disturbing trend in the horror genre ever since charming scares have become substituted for bloody thrills. It's noticeable more now than ever before, gore is in. This goes for all forms of entertainment these days, and it takes only two minutes channel surfing to find a sanguine corpse on any show featuring cops and robbers.
Funny Games knows how much we like it. The violence. It knows that blood has flowed through the slitted veins of poetry, novels, television, and the stories passed down verbally throughout history. We pit our characters in situations that divide the good from the bad, and then give them their just rewards. This movie, is only defined so because we watch it on a screen. In reality it is more of a psychological experiment, one that challenges our perceptions of the fictional and it's influence upon reality.
A wealthy, affluent family is traveling to their vacation home in an equally prestigious neighborhood. Along the way they stop to briefly speak to their friends who are engaged in a stilted and unusually silent game of golf with two young men sporting pristine white gloves. Nothing seems normal about them, and when one of them appears later on the front steps, requesting exactly four eggs, things begin to get tense quick.
What follows is an analysis of what you, the viewer, expect for entertainment, and what lines you draw concerning what can, and can't be done, to the characters you root for.
The two young men propose a bet, a slightly one sided one considering that they're armed with a golf-club. The bet is this, by 9 A.M. the following morning the entire family, mother father and son, will all be dead.
"I bet you're on their side," on of the men in white says, and it takes a moment to realize he is directly addressing you, the viewer.
I have never experienced a film that broke the fourth wall to such an unnerving and exciting extent as Funny Games. The message is loudly established, the rules to movie-making simply do not apply to these characters, who cheat at their own game not only by manipulating their victims, but manipulating the viewer. They change things with the film, things that purposefully ruin the progression of the narrative. They take the plot structure and twist it to their own benefit. It's cheap. It's dirty.
The point is this, they have every right to do what they want.
There is this profound knowledge at the end, one that sinks down deep inside your stomach, that lets you know that you are no better than these villian's. Violence is what we crave, but we're also so selfish as to demand consistent happy endings. We want good to overcome evil, but at the same time we want complete and utter destruction. What right do we have to get away from the theatre, while these fictional characters are condemned to death from the very start?
Funny Games manages to avoid any hypocrisies in it's message and commentary on the "torture-porn" genre by skillfully hiding any actions involving gore from the audience, off screen. It's just as effective, and when it does show up, it only serves as commentary for what we consider "just" or "satisfactory" action. At the same time the film understands the difference between gore, and violence. With this in mind, it is more painful and emotionally stressful to watch than most thrillers on the market.
I thought this film, in many ways, was just brilliant. But it's harshness towards the viewer makes it a hard one to recommend to the squeamish. Still, if you're looking for a truly different viewing experience, and one you will easily be thinking about long afterwards, I couldn't recommend it more.