funnygames2.jpg{Click your heels at this link:My pick for the season…this Psycho-thriller confounded me. To be honest with you reader, when I was watching it for the first time ever, in the night, got so scared of its brooding & eerish depiction that I terminated watching it…..Funny Games start with four eggs…it haunted me like a maniac. watched it seven times.wandered around my home and the terrace like a zombie.Managed to tell the story in my limited histrionics ability to four innocent creatures (2 were aware of Haneke, while the other 2 were blissfully leading their lives with no presence of Haneke) …who now are converted fully to Haneke’s religion. I spoke passionately about this to that long pony-tailed old gentleman at the counter}

Bjorling…Tebaldi…Gigli…you join this pleasant “guess the classical orchestral piece” game between the husband and wife {with their child as a silent spectator}, as the affluent family drives through the dense green countryside to their summer home by the lake. This comforting setup would not last long, as you are thrown out of gear, much to your chagrin, when a highly chaotic thrashing heavy metal hammered into you {abrasive piece by Avant garde Jazz composer John Zorn} over shots of the family’s unsuspecting faces. Perhaps, the director has begun to warn you that this is not a linear movie! The family stops briefly on the way to their secluded summer home, to greet their friends (from the SUV itself) who are in the lawn with two strangers (young lads in tennis whites, white gloves and sneakers). A milder note of dissonance descends on the family: the couple feels something strange about the way their friends responded to their brief hello, while the child probes his parents repeatedly about his friend (a girl child) who does not seem to be around. Not pretty a big issue to give it a second thought, the family reaches their vacation home and gets busy with settling down : mom starts stocking up the refrigerator with food, the gritty dog grabs hold of big piece of beef, while dad & child at the lake go about fixing  the sailboat…a perfect start for family vacation! Much before this, the couple is introduced to one of the young lads, Paul by the seemingly reticent family friend. This is just the beginning….. 

All throughout life, we have to make choices, right? some of the decisions are small and trivial, while others demand a lot more time and thought. Sometimes, the choices that are made influence such a drastic change in the direction  that one is going in life. Sometimes, whether or not we like it, we have to walk on the road less travelled. Appearances can be deceiving! The multi-tasking mom in the kitchen is disrupted by a seemingly polite young man (the fat guy) at the door, who claims to have been sent by her friend to borrow “four eggs”….”yes” or “no” or “am not sure”…each situation comes with a few options, thus facilitating a decision from you, and the outcome of it to be faced, right! The young man fails to carry the four eggs in his hands (when mom offers to have them wrapped in a newspaper), comes back to the kitchen, lingers around apologizing profusely for the inconvenience caused due to his clumsiness. She gets further annoyed when he slips (by accident!! Umm…do you believe that?) the mobile in the sink filled with water….this unexpected melee becomes more irksome when his friend (Paul, the lanky lad) joins him, demanding for one more set of eggs (the first set were dropped by accident, and the doggie pounces on the second set) & thus kick starting murkier a plot of “mind games”. Sensing some kind of disturbance at home, both father and son run back home.  A sharp blow to the knee by a swing of the golf club silences and cripples dad who tries to reason it out with the lads. Till then seen as irritatingly harmless fun gradually turns into a weird mind game that grows darker and darker with the day, and you realize how quickly the time flew by only when the table lamp is turned on. At one stage, the situation appears manageable; you heave a sigh of relief when dad offers money to the cold-blooded psychopaths to terminate the interrogation. Certainly not lured by this offer, the lanky guy, Paul complicates the trauma further by placing a bet with the fear stricken family that “the family would be kaput by 9am next day, in the next 12 hours”. He turns and winks knowingly at the camera, at you asking, “what would you say? do you think they would place a bet?” thus implicating you in the vicious funny games being played with lives.

Violence and its implications on the human system is presented in a rather subtle, non-provocative chilling manner – violence is not reduced to physical images of brutality and angst that we see in most movies, right in-your-face kind of assault, but shown as a long-drawn, slow-paced (more as an deliberate effort so that the tormentor savors the delight when the victim helplessly moves within the frames of fear, sadness, grief, a sudden sense of hope and then finally accepting the trauma as the final leg : that sense of resignation, when the tormentor has no option but kill the victim. The pleasure of playing funny or psychological games with the victims ends here}….

Alok says….”one main thing to notice is that most of the violence happens offscreen and we see only its aftereffects, not really the actual act. also the way he mocks the conventions of regular thriller movies (the remote control scene) where the good guys win in some thrilling scene. it is such a mockery of such movies. one would never see regular violent thrillers the same way again after watching it…”
when I was telling the plot to , he used this term “sense of resignation”, absolutely perfect word! he got the drift of the plot and kept asking me what’s the time then – a keen observer or audience of the movie and curious to know would these cold-blooded animals succeed in killing the whole family within the deadline laid out.

Both the psychotics (Paul-the lanky guy, a charming one with gift of gab, Peter – the chubby and painfully apologetic one) are actually snobs passed out of an Ivy League university, whose talk is intercepted with complex theories about the reality. The lack of motive behind the games-led-torture disorients the family as well as you. Funny Games take a humiliating turn when dad is forced to request mom (his wife) to strip naked before the tormentors, just to prove the lanky guy’s point that she does not have a hint of flab on her body. Nevertheless, you are kept as blind to her nakedness as the boy whose face is covered with a pillow cover. Similarly, you do not witness the child’s murder, but realize it through his parents’ cries of anguish, you stay helpless and disgusted watching the lanky guy fixing a sandwich for self in the kitchen during the murder.

Through the off screen violence and humiliation inflicted on the family, Haneke succeeds to sensitize you to the intense apathy and regular banality with which killers are driven to commit these acts with no obvious reason or motive. Disconcerting, indeed it is! He taunts you through Paul what is keeping you watching the gore despite the fact the situation is grim and hopeless for the family. At times, the movie turns out to be too brutal as you are forced to go through extreme emotions along with the family members in a painfully slow pace (as if you are also experiencing the torture). You remain shocked for some time, when Paul pushes mom lethargically (he kisses her agony struck face Good bye Bella!) into the lake within fleeting fraction of a second. The vicious circle of events disturbs you when he approaches mom’s friend, requesting her to lend four eggs to Anna. Their friend introduced both mom and dad to Paul earlier, and an hour after the torture had begun, mom introduces Paul to her friends who are scheduled to be tortured by these lads next day.

Haneke introduced his movie at the Cannes film festival as an “Anti-Tarantino film”. Look at Pulp Fiction (one of my all-time favorite movies), it is crammed with multiple murders, drugs overdose, anal rape etc etc, while Funny Games is not as graphic as the former, yet each death devastates you and each act is done in cold hatred. With the child who escaped from the tormentors for a brief time, you tremble in the dark corridors of fear, with the realisation that his family friends are murdered and the little girl is not spared either. The movie is a true rendition of real life terror in the society struggling with vanishing moral codes.

{I noted down this from one of the reviews done for the film…….the most unexpected, unusual, audacious and possibly groundbreaking moment in the film totally evidences the fictional construction of film, here explored in a different way to say, Bande a Part (Godard, 1965). Here, Mom (Anna) manages to snatch the rifle and blow the fatty guy away. The lanky guy then confiscates the rifle, pushes her aside and then screams for the location of the remote. When he locates it, he rewinds what we have just seen, bringing fatty back to life and preceding to thwart Anna’s (mom’s) effort. This scene may be interpreted in several ways. For the briefest of moments the audience is given what they want to see – the convention of the genre is fulfilled – before Haneke audaciously and cruelly says sorry, screw you and your expectations of the genre. That the film had effectively been thwarting audience expectation throughout, can be evidenced by the fact that when the reviewer saw the film various audience members cheered when mom killed fatty. Stunned silence and nervous laughter followed lanky guy’s action with the remote. The scene may also be interpreted as titillation (indeed it is the most explicitly violent moment in the film) which erodes the film’s point about violence in film being used as gratuitous entertainment (a view the reviewer does not espouse). Finally, the scene may also be read as a further point about thwarting expectations that we have all acquired by watching thrillers.

special mention : Rakesh’s reviews Cache, Alok- Our expert’s insightful view and G (for being the audience to my performance at 1AM,yup,midnight freak-outs). I cried over the dog’s death! 

{link:Haneke says thus….  } …It is a film you will watch if you need to. If you do not need this film, you will stop watching. If you have watched it to the end, it was because you needed it. You needed to be tortured for that length of time to understand.