“Funny Games” starts out innocently enough with no signs that would make us feel suspicious. A rich family, mother, father, their son, and the family dog, are off to enjoy a holiday by a lake in Austria (where the hills are alive with the sound of Julie Andrews). They have young neighbors and there’s nothing that would make us be concerned about these two kids who want some eggs. The one who goes to get them is clumsy and so he smashes them. One thing leads to another and then his friend, in incredibly short shorts, bashes the father’s leg with a golf club. Now we should be worried. The two intruders make a bet with the family that they won’t be alive by 9:00AM (spoiler alert: they aren’t). And so the movie ends.
Directed by Michael Haneke (who I know from one of my favorite films Amour), “Funny Games”, intended that it be a “pointless” movie. After learning this, I suppose it is. But the genius to this film is that Paul (Arno Frisch) is aware that he’s in a movie and that it’s pointless. There are moments when Paul pulls a Ferris Bueller by acknowledging the existence of the audience. This first happens when he plays a game of warmer/colder with Anna (Susanne Lothar). He looks at the camera for a moment and smirks.
STOP: Is it me or does Logan Lerman look a bit like Arno Frisch?
The son, Georgie (Urlich Mühe) tries to escape and finds that the neighbor is dead. He brings back a shotgun but fails to kill any of the captors. Paul’s accomplice, Fred (Christoph Bantzer) plays a counting game and ends up killing Georgie. We don’t see that scene, a scene that other directors would go to great lengths to dramatize, instead, we see Paul make himself a sandwich. This isn’t a world that includes Paul, this is Paul’s world and everyone just gets to be a part of it (until they don’t). This point is made even clearer when Anna kills Fred. No matter, because Paul simply rewinds time itself and stops her before she could reach the gun. In the words of “The Croods,” “And they all… DIE!”
Should we be surprised? Of course we shouldn’t! This is of course, a pointless movie. It’s almost a satire of the genre. Nothing really happens. It’s a movie that you could quite frankly go without seeing. I understand that there is hidden symbolism and that it was made to show how violent movies have become. But why do I need that understanding? Haneke has the ability to send the same message with much more grace and skill, so why would he make this pointless movie?
Because he wanted to of course! This movie wasn’t intended to be put upon a soap box or give the audience their blood fix, it was made, not because it SHOULD, but because it COULD. Now comes the hard part, does that make it a good movie? Absolutely not. But I suppose that is the genius of Michael Haneke. Just another crazy Austrian bastard.