In this exploration of our violent society and how depictions of violence reflect and shape our culture, a middle-class housewife Anna (Naomi Watts), her husband George (Tim Roth) and their ten year old son Georgie (Devon Gearheart) are submitted to both physical and psychological torture, violence, and death foisted upon them by two young, unexpected, white-gloved teenage boys (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) at their weekend vacation retreat near a lake.
The trailer for this movie promised what the title suggested, ‘Funny Games,’ but there was nothing funny about a married couple and their young son being viciously tortured and humiliated by two teenage psychopaths.
Naomi Watts as Anna was fantastic in the role, and along with Michael Pitt (Paul), the two carried the other actors, which was a surprise, being that Tim Roth was in on the act. However, where Anna was portrayed as a strong female character, which would fight to the death for her family, George (Roth) came across as weak and annoying. Even Georgie, their young son, showed more gumption while trying to fight the maniacs who had taken over the family’s home. The psychopaths were portrayed brilliantly by the very talented Michael Pitt and the loony looking Brady Corbet.
The film was supposed to be a post-modern look on how movie goers view violence, but this wasn’t made obvious enough to the general viewer, and I feel would have gone over some audiences radars, with Michael Pitt talking to the camera in several scenes, for example, and telling us ‘you’re on their side’ – referring to the family. Well, duh! Of course, the audience is on the innocent family’s side – you’d have to be pretty insane not to be.
I feel this movie was just an excuse for gratuitous violence, while trying to justify it, by being ‘post-modern.’ The film left me and my fellow viewer depressed and feeling like we’d wasted a good hour and a half. In the movie, we are never told why the two boys are serial killers, why they have control over everything – basically nothing is explained, and the movie comes across impotent, leaving the viewer furious.
In one particularly frustrating scene, Naomi Watts, after witnessing the death of her son (his head is blown off with a shotgun), the torture of her husband, and being forced to strip for the psycho teen’s enjoyment, grabs the shotgun and shoots one of the teenage boys. This created quite a reaction in the cinema, with people yelling ‘thank-God’ and cheering. Michael Pitt’s character then starts looking for the T.V remote, leaving the viewer wondering why? Next, he says ‘this is all wrong’ and presses the rewind button – the film then goes backwards (literally) to when Naomi reaches for the gun, the scene is now changed, and Pitt grabs it before her, and then knocks her out. Leaving me and the rest of the cinema absolutely livid! To me, this was a ‘cheat’ in the movie code handbook. Not to mention, just downright unfair and serving no purpose to film or viewer - although it did, didn't it? It drove us all nuts. This movie is basically saying we have no control over these characters fates - the writer/director does, and it's true.
This was a nasty, vicious little film, made brilliant and watchable from the performances and the constant, overwheming tension. The ‘post-modern’ comment on violence wasn’t made apparent enough though, and I feel only media students would have understood, or at least appreciated, what on earth was going on.
The movie also had a very strong misogynistic undertone running throughout, because even though Anna was shown as the strongest character, she was also victimised the most, in one very uncomfortable scene, she is forced to strip in front of her son and the rest of the characters, leaving me to think this scene was exploitation for exploitation’s sake. Horror is supposed to thrill and leave the viewer feeling as if they’d been on a good rollercoaster. This rollercoaster only went down, taking the viewer with it. Though, I would refer to this movie as a thriller - however horrifying it may be.
All I can say is, writer/director Michael Haneke has a very disturbed mind, and uses it well here, the film put me in mind of other disturbing, in my opinion, horror’s, such as the movie, ‘The Girl Next Door’ and the book, ‘Let’s Go Play At The Adam’s’ – the most disturbing book or media I’ve ever had the misfortune to read, by the now deceased writer, Mendal Johnson, who’s first name should have had the letter ‘n’ replaced with ‘t’ – with all three media, the viewer is left disturbed, upset and asking ‘how could they?’ In all three cases though, the subject was at least expertly delivered. A disturbing and shocking experience with ‘Funny Games.’
SPOILER: Most people I feel will have the following opion on the film : The worst and most frustrating part of this movie was that not one ‘innocent’ character survived, and Anna, deserved to. If you want to watch a nice family horribly bullied, tortured and murdered for no reason, and then have their killers get away with it – this is the film for you, but if that’s the case, I’d be very worried to be anywhere near you. I found the message of literally getting away with murder a very dangerous one for today’s society, and the murder of an innocent, especially a child, is always horrific to watch.