An idyllic lakeside vacation home is terrorized by Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering), a pair of deeply disturbed young men. When the fearful Anna (Susanne Lothar) is home alone, the two men drop by for a visit that quickly turns violent and terrifying. Husband Georg (Ulrich Mühe) comes to her rescue, but Paul and Peter take the family hostage and subject them to nightmarish abuse and humiliation.
I heard about both Funny Games movies (original and remake), and had been meaning to watch them for some time. All I knew was the main plot of both movies, and that they were both home invasion movies. I checked out the original and while I can’t say that I loved it, it’s certainly an impactful and well-made movie.
The plot is simple enough, family of three is held hostage by two young men and tormented. Funny Games is a pretty dark home invasion horror thriller that is certainly more on the psychological side and doesn’t rely on a lot of graphic violence. While the movie can contain some realistic and hard hitting violence, those moments are deliberately shown offscreen. It’s more awkward than violent if anything. The movie is meant to be a commentary on violence, especially violence in the media. There’s some notable fourth wall breaking scenes, especially involving Arno Frisch’s character, which I guess are done to really involve the viewer in what’s happening. It asks about whether the viewers play a role in the violence that occurs. The atmosphere is quite tense and there’s a real sense of dread throughout. It’s a very cold movie, which is intentional and meant to be that way, however that did end up affecting the movie in a negative way somewhat. The movie is 109 minutes long and admittedly it did lose me 2 thirds of the way through. It became a bit tiring to watch, and while I think that might’ve been the intention, it’s not in the “super disturbed and wanting the movie to end” way. That coldness mentioned earlier played a part too, I just wondered what the point of watching was, no doubt the intention. Not to mention the movie did feel dragged out. And also to just put it bluntly, it’s not a movie that you enjoy watching, even before the movie sort of lost me. I can’t exactly say that this is a criticism since it was no doubt its goal, but I thought I should mention that.
One of the strongest parts of the movie was the acting, which was great from everyone involved. The family are played by Susanne Lothar, Ulric Muhe and Stefan Clapczynski, and the two young men who are invading them are played by Arno Frisch and Frank Giering. They do feel very natural and so that made the performances feel all the more real. We really don’t get any character development or learn about these characters, though I’m assuming that was another deliberate choice from Haneke.
Funny Games is directed well by Michael Haneke, a lot of the decisions made were definitely very deliberate and purposeful, the previously mentioned decision of not showing the violence on screen being an example. The technical aspects are great, giving an uneasy atmosphere throughout. There are a lot of long single-take shots to bring in an unsettling vibe, and there are some images which really stick with you. The isolated location also helps to make it more unnerving and also feel more real.
Funny Games is not for everyone, it’s a bit cold and tough to sit through. I’ll say that it’s worth a watch for those interested in it though, with the great direction and acting, and it was somewhat fascinating to watch if nothing else. I heard the American remake by Haneke is pretty much a shot by shot remake of this film, so it’ll be interesting to see if there are any differences at all between the two versions outside of one being in English.