A Funny thing happened on the way to the theatre...
I watched Funny Games last night. At least, the recent American remake, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. It's a fairly well-shot and incredibly well-acted movie and I must confess, I must, that I have no idea at all what to think about it.

The basic plot, for those who have not seen it: Roth and Watts play a bourgeois couple, a stereotypic modern yuppie set with 1.5 children (the .5 comes in the form of a golden retriever), a penchant for opera, a Land Rover and a lake house with a boat. Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet play a pair of young sociopaths who torture the family, ostensibly on account of their unkindness.

My initial conclusion is that I loved it. I think it's a brilliant movie, a strong excoriation of Hollywood's tendecies towards violence pornography. I think it's interesting how polarising it is, and how many people found it to be completely flat, or who seem to have thought the focus was on the behavior of Pitt and Corbet rather than on the film itself. I think it's curious that it received an 'R' rating despite minimal language--the violence is always and consistently offscreen, except for one conspicuous exception that makes sense within the movie.

It's clearly an arthouse film, of course. Mainstream audiences would never stand for its central premise, its conceits (or pretensions, if you prefer) or its conclusions. So, there are arthouse bits to it. I'm not sure if it's significant that this movie about Americans (in every conceivable way), set in America and intended for American release stars two British actors (the villains, in case you were wondering, are played by Americans). They drive a Land Rover. They listen to Handel, Mozart and Mascagni.

The basic take-home message is basically "oh ho, so you like violence in your movies, EH?". Director Haneke is generally fairly subtle (with clear exceptions that I won't reveal in order to preserve the plot) about this--as I said, there's very little on-screen violence in Funny Games. Naomi Watts is disturbing as she becomes progressively more broken, and she cries a lot, but there's no violence--which is actually, in some ways, much more powerful. For my money, he also manages to do this without being especially preachy--always a worry in such films.

Why is this an RDM post and not a review, then?

Because, like I said, I'm just not sure what to think. A lot of reviewers found Haneke's message lacking, his artistic decisions facile and his movie irredeemable (though I think some of them felt that the antagonists were really supposed to be the heroes of the piece, a conclusion I find unsupportable). I felt the complete opposite... and I admit to being a bit curious as to whether or not this means I've been taken for a ride by what amounts to propaganda.


And of course, I don't actually really have a problem with the aestheticisation, as Wiki would say, of violence. It is somewhat interesting, though. Die Hard? Go for it. Hannibal? Hey, ol' Liotta had it coming. Gladiator? Bring it on. Somebody makes a movie about people dying where you never see anybody die? Who does that fucker think he is?

18.06.2009 - 1h16
Comrade Alex
18.06.2009 - 1h34
18.06.2009 - 2h35
Comrade Alex
18.06.2009 - 2h58
18.06.2009 - 4h01

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