Sunday September 14, 2008
Funny GamesRated MAStarring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael PittCritic's warning Harsh violence and languageCritic's rating 4/10IS THERE a difference between a horror story which is an intellectual exercise in deconstructing violence in movies and one which is plain old torture porn? The answer in Funny Games is, frankly, no. This nearly two hours of screen sadism is a remake by German-born director Michael Haneke of his 1997 subtitled movie. In an almost shot-by-shot replay of the original, two murderous thrill-seekers (Pitt, Brady Corbet) spend a night terrorising a couple (Watts, Roth) and their young son (Devon Gearhart). Haneke says an English-language remake was needed to have an impact on the US market. That sounds like an excuse, but his last film was the acclaimed Hidden so it's hard to write him off as a desperado.However, what he delivers is patronising and dull. A decade ago, when Haneke's killers abruptly addressed the camera, these sequences felt like flashy posturing in an overextended short. Not much has changed, unfortunately.It is too easy to make a film with unexplained characters, endless malign coincidences and escalating violence. It is as easy as, well, making torture-porn flicks such as Saw, Captivity and all the Hollywood films that Haneke rails against.Sarcastic comments by the characters don't increase the intellectual quotient. The result feels like a con job, patronising those who might have appreciated Haneke's mission - except that such people will already avoid violent Hollywood dreck on principle and they won't like being lectured. So who is left to enlighten? Younger viewers can't see this unsupervised because of the censorship rating. It is patronising to assume that media-bombarded young adults aren't aware of movie manipulation. It's as though Haneke doesn't realise he's living in a world where kids also watch sardonic Juno and the Scream horror-spoofs.Structurally, the 1990s fixed-frame shots create tension but grow monotonous; Funny Games is a slog. Performance-wise, Roth is becoming less interesting while Pitt (deliberately?) dully replays his thrill-killer in Hollywood's Murder By Numbers.Watts, again, is better than expected. Unlike those peers who look Botoxed from the knees up, she isn't afraid to look distraught. She gets to replay the most interesting moment, one designed to show that audiences secretly lust for violent revenge as a solution.Haneke makes his point. However, it's equally likely that viewers' reactions are really a desire for the movie to finish.
© 2008 Sun Herald