I was trying to figure out how to write about this movie without giving a single thing away. It’s all about impact, it’s all about shock, it’s all about pushing buttons and provocation. But then I realised I knew the story pretty well and thought I was more than prepared for it going in, and it still hit me like a freight train. So while I’ll do my best not to giveaway any specifics or spoilers, I actually think having some idea of what to expect with Funny Games might be a necessity, because if you went in totally blind, it could be a bit too much.
Soon after arriving, there’s a knock at the door from Brad Corbet’s Peter, an awkward, shy teenager in tennis whites and gloves who seems just a little off. At first polite, Watts becomes more and more on edge until they are joined by Paul, played by Michael Pitt. The ultra politeness of the two is immediately disturbing and only becomes more so when Pitt breaks Roth’s leg with a golf club.
Now the story of Funny Games really kicks into gear. The two boys in white make a bet with the family that they will not be alive by the next morning and begin a game of some physical, mostly emotional, torture. That’s when you need to strap yourself in and get ready for a pretty confronting hour or so, because Heneke has a point that he really wants to make.
I have a feeling Heneke hates film violence. Or, at least, he hates voyeuristic film violence. With Funny Games, it’s like he’s fulfilling some sort of sick fantasy of us, the audience, then when it becomes too much and we try to look away, he rubs our nose in it and makes the violence that much more confronting. He’s not trying to be subtle with this message either. Pitt breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera more than once, almost asking the audience to justify how they could possibly be entertained by this. Even the one truly heroic moment is immediately thrown back in the audience’s face.
Funny Games is not an easy movie to watch, but that’s the whole point. It’s not torture porn like the Saw movies, because it actually has something to say. Speaking of torture porn, it also made me think of Wolf Creek. My reaction after seeing that film was, I really liked it, but I never wanted it see it again. I almost feel the same way about Funny Games, the difference is, Wolf Creek was all surface and tried to be nothing more than violent horror. Funny Games has a strong point of view and whether or not you agree with that point of view, you’ll be thinking about it for a long time after it’s over.