Friday, March 14, 2008

Funny Games

Here's my review of Funny Games from this week's Westender.

Funny Games
3 stars
By Andrea Warner

Horrifying, disturbing, and unsettling. Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s remake of his own film of the same name, is a chance to watch your own worst nightmare come true: two angelic looking psychopaths torture and terrorize a family for no other reason, it seems, than “entertainment”.

Naomi Watts and Tim Roth are Ann and George, a wealthy couple arriving at their summer home with their young son, Georgie. The family’s quaint and quiet perfection is in the details: a large vacation home, hidden behind a huge gate, nestled on the water; car trip games of guess the opera; state of the art golf clubs. They appear to be a family entirely untouched by violence; lives lived in a fragile bubble.

Until they meet Peter and Paul who are “visiting” neighbours. The tension is almost unbearable from the first ten minutes onward. Michael Pitt’s Paul is coolly persistent, his exaggerated politeness both mocking and terrifying. Brady Corbet’s Peter has a penetrating gaze, creepy in its vacancy, and a genuinely intimidating unibrow. The games alternate between psychological and physical torture, and the vicious outbursts keep the family, and the audience, on edge.

Haneke makes interesting and unusual choices with the action, periodically breaking through the fourth wall as Paul stares deeply into the camera, addressing the audience directly, or “rewinds” an entire portion of the film in a bizarre twist on create-your-own-ending. Funny Games is the darkest of thrillers, relentlessly violating its characters, but it’s the audience that bears the blunt force of the trauma.

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