Friday, 22 February 2008

GFF Review: Funny Games U.S. - by Robert Duffin

Director: Michael Haneke
Screenwriter: Michael Haneke
Running Time: 119 mins
Certificate: 18

Like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, Michael Haneke’s English language shot for shot remake of his own 1997 Austrian shocker Funny Games is likely to divide the fan base. Haneke has said the sole purpose of this remake was to allow the film to reach a wider audience, and given it’s wider cultural critique on violence in cinema, perhaps Haneke always meant to unleash this intellectual exercise in torture on American audiences. For those who missed it first time around, the film is about a middle class couple, George (Tim Roth) and Anna (Naomi Watts) and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) who are heading to their lakeside vacation home. Upon arrival they are confronted by two mild mannered young men, Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt) who at first are only after eggs for the neighbour but quickly turn to full on home invasion.

Once again Haneke subverts our notions and forces us to question representations of violence in cinema. The unspeakable acts, while mostly taking place off screen, are made unbearably tense by his insistence on long unbroken takes and framing that often takes focus away from the obvious action. Yet just when you begin to feel suitably distanced from the horror, the fourth wall will be shattered along with your nerve. From the faux red herrings to the wonderful performances (why isn’t Tim Roth in more movies?), Funny Games U.S. would be a masterpiece if only it added something to the original. Everything, from the shots, to the dialogue, plot points and even the ear piercing John Zorn thrash punk track that crashes into the opening credits remain the same. As it is, Funny Games ’97 is the masterpiece; a self-reflexive exercise on media, culture and violence, everything that Natural Born Killers wanted so desperately to be. Funny Games U.S. on the other hand is somewhat of a curio, like a straightforward cover version of a great song; it’s still great but somewhat diluted by repetition.

Even the trailers are practically cut the same:



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