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Austria 1997
Directed by
Michael Haneke
108 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Funny Games (1997)

On one level Michael Haneke's film is another scary holiday movie as a well-heeled bourgeois couple and their child are taken hostage by a pair of apparently respectable young men who proceed to enact their grisly games.

This disturbing Austrian film, although lacking Hollywood-style adrenaline-pumping tension and having a few plot issues (since the owners are so wealthy why doesn't the house have a landline, why doesn't Anna blow the whistle when the neighbours come over etc), will turn many people off with its coldly horrific violence as it takes place not only within a comfortable middle-class home but with the complicity of the viewer.

The latter aspect is a clever post-modern feature and Haneke is an intellectually informed director who has an impressive knack for finding a way of embodying contemporary critical theory ideas in conventional narrative form. Haneke handles the violence with restraint but the film is no less frightening for it, with a notably strong performance from Susanne Lothar as the terrified wife and mother, Anna, whilst Arno Frisch, who was the boy in Haneke’s 1992 Benny’s Video, is suitably evil as Paul, the brains of this bizarre and apparently unmotivatedly sadistic duo.

Whilst one cannot help asking, intellectual conceits asides, why Haneke is so interested in violence and no doubt question the merits of watching this film, it is certainly a less demeaning experience than (ans some will interpret it as a comment upon) the typical American exploitation of violence as entertainment.

DVD Extras: As with all of Madman’s Director’s Suite releases of Haneke’s films the film is accompanied by an interview with the director in which he discusses the film. Also comes with a commentary by academic, Dr. Hamish Ford and the original theatrical trailer.

Available from: Madman




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