Funny Games (1997 film)
Original release poster
|Directed by||Michael Haneke|
|Produced by||Veit Heiduschka|
|Written by||Michael Haneke|
|Editing by||Andreas Prochaska|
|Distributed by||Attitude Films (US theatrical)
|Running time||108 minutes|
Funny Games is a 1997 Austrian psychological thriller film directed and written by Michael Haneke. The plot of the film involves two young men who hold a family hostage and torture them with sadistic games. The film was entered into the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.
The film begins with a wealthy German family - Georg (Ulrich Mühe), his wife Anna (Susanne Lothar), their son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski), and their dog Rolfi - arriving at their Austrian lake house. They spot their next-door neighbor Fred (Christoph Bantzer) accompanied by two young Viennese men, Peter (Frank Giering) and Paul (Arno Frisch), one of whom Fred introduces as the son of a friend while paying a visit. The two men begin imposing themselves on the family's courtesy, and in the process destroy their phone and ruin all their eggs. Eventually a frustrated Anna demands that the men leave, asking Georg to eject them from the premises. Paul kills Rolfi, Peter breaks Georg's leg with the latter's golf club, and the two men take the family hostage, forcing the members to participate in a number of funny games in order to stay alive.
Paul asks if the family wants to bet that they will be alive by 09:00 in the morning, though he doubts that they will win. Between playing their games, the two men keep up a constant patter, and Paul frequently ridicules Peter's weight and lack of intelligence. He describes a number of contradicting stories of Peter's past, though no definitive explanation is ever presented as to the men's origins or motives. When some of the family's other neighbors arrive for a visit, Anna passes the men off as friends until the visitors leave—much in the same way Fred did at the beginning of the film. Georgie eventually escapes to the house next door, but finds the family dead. He attempts to shoot Paul with a shotgun, but it is not loaded. Paul returns him to the house, along with the gun. After a few more games, Peter plays a counting-out game between the family members and shoots Georgie while Paul makes sandwiches in the kitchen. After this, both intruders leave.
Georg and Anna weep for their loss, but eventually resolve to survive. Anna flees the house while Georg, with a broken leg, tries to get help with the malfunctioning phone. Anna struggles to find help, but eventually Peter and Paul reappear, capture her, and return to the house. They kill Georg and take Anna out on the family's boat early the next morning. Around eight o'clock, Paul casually throws the bound Anna into the water to drown, thus winning their bet. They dock at the house of the neighbors that had previously visited the family, and request some eggs, thereby restarting their cycle of murder.
- Susanne Lothar as Anna
- Ulrich Mühe as George
- Arno Frisch as Paul
- Frank Giering as Peter
- Stefan Clapczynski as Georgie
- Doris Kunstmann as Gerda
- Christoph Bantzer as Fred
- Wolfgang Glück as Robert
The film frequently blurs the line between fiction and reality, especially highlighting the act of observation. The character Paul breaks the fourth wall throughout the film and addresses the camera in various ways. As he directs Anna to look for her dead dog, he turns, winks, and smirks at the camera. When he asks the family to bet on their survival, he turns to the camera and asks the audience whether they will bet as well. At the end of the film, when requesting eggs from the next family, he looks into the camera and smirks again. Only Paul breaks the fourth wall in the film, while Peter makes references to the formulaic suspense rules of traditional cinema throughout the film.
Paul also frequently states his intentions to follow the standards of movie plot development. When he asks the audience to bet, he guesses that the audience wants the family to win. After the killers vanish in the third act, Paul later explains that he had to give the victims a last chance to escape or else it would not be dramatic. Toward the end of the movie, he postpones killing the rest of the family because the movie has not yet reached feature length. Throughout the film, Paul shows awareness of the audience's expectations.
However, Paul also causes the film to go against convention on a number of occasions. In thrillers, one protagonist that the audience can sympathize with usually survives, but here all three family members die. When Anna successfully shoots Peter, as a possible start to a heroic escape for the family, Paul uses a remote control to rewind the film itself and prevent her action. After Georgie dies, Paul regrets killing him first because it goes against convention and limits the suspense for the rest of the film. At the end of the film, the murderers prevent Anna from using a knife in the boat to cut her bonds. An earlier close-up had pointed out the knife's location as a possible set-up for a final-act escape, but this becomes a red herring. At the end of the film, Paul again smirks triumphantly at the audience. As a self-aware character, he is able to go against the viewers' wishes and make himself the winner of the film.
After killing Anna, Peter and Paul argue about the line between reality and fiction. Paul believes that a fiction that is observed is just as real as anything else, but Peter dismisses this idea. Unlike Paul, Peter never shows an awareness that he is in a film.
Haneke states that the entire film was not intended to be a horror film. He says he wanted to make a message about violence in the media by making an incredibly violent, but otherwise pointless movie. He had written a short essay revealing how he felt on the issue, called "Violence + Media." It is available to view on the website for the film's remake.
Critical reception 
Home media 
The version of Funny Games most widely available on DVD in the United States is not rated by the MPAA. Despite being unrated, the film features very little graphic violence and almost all of the death and mutilation occurs off-screen.
American remake 
See also 
- "Festival de Cannes: Funny Games". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- Gleiberman, Owen (2008-03-12). "Funny Games". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-03-16.