Funny Games Movie Review
So, everyone needs eggs, regardless of the cholesterol scares in the country. It is this need that brings Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering) to the summer home of a well-to-do couple and their son. Peter, a shy, young man, asks for a few eggs and is given them, but he drops them by accident. This continues to happen until Anna (Susanne Lothar), the wife, gets frustrated and asks him to leave. Then Peter enters, with the homicidal swagger of Frank Sinatra playing Hannibal Lecter. Peter thinks Anna is being rude to his friend and demands more eggs. What happens next? Details shouldn't be discussed further, but Peter and Paul put Anna, her husband Georg (Ulrich Mühe), and their son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) through a series of games that range from perverse to blood-curdling.
Michael Haneke is the Todd Solondz of the thriller genre: Without thought, he will bring up the most disturbing and uncomfortable of topics and play them out with a poet's finesse and a keen sense of shock. Funny Games is an experiment, and should be approached as one. Three separate times, Peter breaks the fourth wall to talk to the audience about how they feel about what's happening and how we feel about him. You could interpret this many different ways, but we see that Haneke has made these characters ruthless, and yet we are not allowed to hate them. The acts they inflict on the family that finally leads to the chilling and somewhat anti-climactic ending are so brutal, but the carefree nature of the killers has a strangely subduing effect. Maybe violence against humans is just something they want to do, ingrained in our nature. Haneke, as always, wants to see our reactions to extremes in a manipulated state. The experimental nature of the film hinders it from being as powerful as his later work (The Piano Teacher, Time of the Wolf) but there are some awfully interesting questions being raised under Jürgen Jürges' assured camerawork.
The characters of Paul and Peter aren't giving any explanation in social or psychological terms; they are simply sadistic men. They enjoy, sometimes with glee, the tortures they put on the family. Specifically, watch the scene where Paul chases young Georgie when he escapes. There is a breathless cruelty to the way the chase is carried out and how it ends. A thought doesn't pass their faces, this is simply what they do and what they want to do. What makes Haneke's film such a fascinating thing to watch is how he makes us so interested in characters that aren't explained beyond their charms and their sadism, which makes our own opinions grow and leaves the decisions squarely on us.