Funny Games (2008)
Funny Games (2008)

Genre: Psychological Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: March 14th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Michael Haneke Actors: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart, Boyd Gaines, Siobhan Fallon Hogan

 


 

B

ack in 1997, German director Michael Haneke made “Funny Games,” a disturbing yet thought-provoking thriller that toys with the viewer’s place as a voyeur. This remake, also written and directed by Haneke, features an all-new cast in the Hollywoodized, English-language standard. The problem is that this latest effort is essentially a shot-for-shot, line-for-line, verbatim, reshoot. This approach makes seeing the original unnecessary – or watching this 2008 update pointless for anyone who has seen the original. And despite those pesky subtitles that often upset American audiences, the former vision possessed a rugged authenticity and unrecognizable casting choices that were decidedly superior.

Ann (Naomi Watts) and George (Tim Roth) arrive at their vacation home ready to enjoy some golfing and sailing with their son (Devon Gearhart) and neighbors. As Ann unpacks groceries, two young men, dressed in white polos and wearing white gloves, confront her. Thinking nothing of their politeness and harmless request for eggs (they explain that the neighbors ran out of cooking materials), Ann immediately obliges. But when the visitors begin antagonizing her, she quickly realizes that her family is about to be taken hostage for a terrifying night of sadistic mind-games.

The same overhead shot of a car (this time an SUV) driving down a desolate highway, while the family inside plays a game of guessing musical tunes, introduces the film’s setting and characters. The same opera pieces, the same title sequence, and the same ear-piercing, abstract death metal are used. The picture is undoubtedly disturbing, unique, and white-knuckle suspenseful, but for anyone who has seen the original, there’s simply nothing new. The breed of dog has changed, along with the style of phone (from mobile to cellular), but the house’s white gate looks almost completely identical, and the kitchen and all of its seemingly random decorations are all a perfect match (no doubt on purpose). Georg and Anna have been altered to their American counterparts George and Ann, while some of the original translations have been reinterpreted (such as “fatty” to “tubby” and “cheeky” to “rude”), but actions and reactions are mirror images.

This remake is only slightly more successful than Gus Van Sant’s famously horrendous turn with Hitchcock’s “Psycho” because “Funny Games” never achieved the same level of fame. Taking what is regularly considered to be one of the greatest films of all time and re-doing it scene for scene is outrageously pointless. At least with “Funny Games,” the reasons are more coherent. Translating a German film into something more accessible for American audiences through the use of English-speaking actors isn’t entirely inane, even if the intention is to appeal solely to those unfamiliar with the source material.

Devoid of a soundtrack and played out to feel like real-time, the events of this one freakish night in a sleepy glen are still just as distressing as before. Regardless of its status as a remake, this new adaptation isn’t without shock value and perturbing commentary on voyeurism and violence, serving as a statement on audience participation with torturous depictions rather than a cinematic story of good and evil. And with its appalling conclusion, bizarre plot twists, and the uncomfortable interference with the “fourth wall” (or having characters talk directly to the camera), “Funny Games” is a film that is difficult to swallow in any language.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10