975 Funny Games

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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domino harvey
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Re: 975 Funny Games

#26 Post by domino harvey » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:19 pm

For anyone curious, here's our thread for the remake, which has a significant focus on discussion of the original

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#27 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:21 pm

This version at least has some truly amazing scenes in it, not just the big 'rewinding the film' one. The opening with the the classical music and family game already being overwritten by the blood red credits and gibbering, raving new piece of music, the hotter/colder game with the family dog:
SpoilerShow
with the mother opening the door of the car to have the lifeless body of the dog slide out onto the ground, all played out in the background, as the killer mugs fourth-wall breakingly for the camera in the foreground
, the entire cat and mouse sequence when the film briefly expands its scope and has the young boy of the family involved in one of the most tense sequences in and around the eerily empty and dark neighbour's house, trying to get hold of the shotgun he knows they have, which only serves to escalate events to a deadly level, but not in the expected way. In a way its the major example of the victims inadvertently introducing yet another object of torture into their situation (that inevitably now has to be used at some point, as otherwise why would it have been introduced into the 'film'?) to pair with the knife previously being used to chop the vegetables.

I particularly love Susanne Lothar's performance in this and would argue that her harrowing, intense and haunted performance alone is reason enough to watch this film. The extremely long scene after the first death when the killers apparently leave yet the film continues to remain there (preventing the agony from ending by staying even when the actual aggressors have departed - a comment on media perpetuating the aftereffects of such events?), observing as the remaining characters slowly pull themselves together, have a break down and then work out a possible plan of action, is absolutely stunning to me. Especially for that moment when Lothar on the brink of leaving, returns back to give Mühe a last passionate kiss (which is very like the later 'despairingly passionate' kiss at the end of the supermarket scene in Code Unknown. Less about the love aspect but almost more about the desperate need to perform an act of intimacy even as the couple are being ripped apart). Then following that she has her own tension filled 'expansive-retractive' moment similar to her son's on the pitch black country road beyond the confines of the family home.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#28 Post by whaleallright » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:10 pm

Brian C wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:41 pm
MichaelB wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:39 pm
I’ve seen and admire much of the rest of Haneke’s output, but I’ve never had even the tiniest desire to see this in either version. Everything Haneke has said about it suggests that I’m not the target audience.
I would never recommend the film to someone who dislikes Haneke, but to someone who admires his other films, I would encourage you to ignore what Haneke says and see what you think on your own terms. Haneke's statement quoted above is so ridiculous that it qualifies as a piss-take whether he intended it to be or not. In fact I think it's a very funny troll of critics, even if he thought he was being dead serious when he said it.

The film itself is definitely a Haneke film in that it's not coy about its aims, but it's extremely effective as a horror film, even as it's repeatedly breaking the fourth wall to undermine its own tropes. Honestly it's really a hell of a thing in the way that it's constructed and executed. I can understand why someone like William Friedkin would be such a vocal admirer.
Yeah, I wouldn't argue that Haneke wasn't a skilled filmmaker, and in some ways a worthy Hitchcock acolyte. But the larger aims of his films are often so rancid (and often, despite or because of all the overweening intellectualizing, pretty dumb) that it can be hard for me to appreciate the deft ways he manipulates the audience.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#29 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:44 am

This is the rare horror film to manage to be incredibly frightening, somewhat logically sound, and very emotionally difficult to watch. I realize that latter bit trips everyone up and has led to some really annoying Haneke quotes on his own work, but it doesn't change the fact that both versions of this film are great in my view.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#30 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:10 am

Outside of the "violence in media criticism" reading, the cold unexplained murder-spree of the 2 young men is what fascinates me the most. There is no motive ever given for what they're doing, and I think that's what is the scariest. The lack of motive, which seems to be very "unlogical" in a movie that is clinical in its construction and crescendo.
As humans, we always are looking for reasons, patterns, logic, and when there seemingly is none, that's when you feel you're looking straight into oblivion.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#31 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:43 am

I couldn't find the seeming lack of logic or motive behind the killers scary because the metatextual aspect supplies it. We're not staring into the void of arbitrary human malice in an uncaring world; we're staring at a filmmaker who wishes to chasten us with imagined cruelties and for us to know it.

The true object of the sadism in the film isn't the family but the viewer. That's not so bad in a horror film, but this is only superficially a horror film. Its real motive isn't to scare, but to taunt, indict, and hold the viewer responsible for what the filmmaker has created. Its superiority is an ugly hypocrisy.

I could admire a film that wanted its audience to be frightened not so much of the external world of human violence, but of their own internal capacity to permit and enjoy violence. I think a lot of viewers confuse Funny Games for that film. I think Haneke himself probably confuses Funny Games for that film. But Funny Games' motive to punish and chasten is too transparent. It's all contained in the opening titles: set the viewer up with calm music, then torment them with a violent and seemingly motiveless change to heavy music. That sums the movie for me: cheap, transparent, and coldly manipulative. I'm reminded of Martyrs, a movie that attempts to justify endless scenes of punishing violence with its own pseudo-intellectual veneer. But if Martyrs wished to be superior to its material while still reveling in it, it at least never wanted to be superior to its own audience. So that's something. Funny Games has made me watch Haneke's other films with considerably more suspicion.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#32 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 16, 2019 8:09 am

Having followed closely Martyrs when it was released and then released on video, believe me, Martyrs and Laugier think of themselves very very highly.

I understand what you mean about the lack of motive, but that still gives the impression of purely mad characters. So sure, they are projections, or rather mirrors, so they aren't purely point-less (in a litteral way), but still, it questions goal-less sadism. There is no backstory, no background to justify what is happening. It's akin to '78 Michael Myers. Why does he kill ? Who knows. That's just what he does.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#33 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:39 am

tenia wrote:I understand what you mean about the lack of motive, but that still gives the impression of purely mad characters. So sure, they are projections, or rather mirrors, so they aren't purely point-less (in a litteral way), but still, it questions goal-less sadism. There is no backstory, no background to justify what is happening. It's akin to '78 Michael Myers. Why does he kill ? Who knows. That's just what he does.
I don't know that the film is able to question goal-less sadism since it gives its killers rather thudding goals. Sure, the goals may be metatextual rather than purely narrative, but they are still coherent. The film is perpetually telling you why they're doing it: they're performing for the audience. Once you realize that, they no longer seem quite so interesting. It's hard to feel terror at arbitrary violence when everything is filled with thudding significance and all the insane behaviour is naked role-playing. Mainly one just feels abused and hectored.

I thought The Strangers offered a more effective presentation of motiveless violence, especially the intruders' chilling response when asked why they're tormenting the family: "Because you were home". It's not a great movie, but it is superior to Funny Games.

I believe you about Laugier.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#34 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:32 am

I had a different experience with the movie, hence my sligth disagreement with you, but I see what you're pointing out, and I guess I'll keep that in mind next time I watch it, since it's been quite some time now, and maybe I just missed some stuff then.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#35 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:33 am

I’m a fan of Haneke. This one though, is a film I saw and will never need to see it again. (I didn’t see the English version) It’s a tough watch. Haneke makes films that push buttons and Funny Games pushed my angry button for sure. Also, from what I can remember was that I was annoyed at the passiveness of the family. I don’t think Haneke was looking for answers as much as he was saying violence some times, if not more often, has no explanation and just an ugly human trait.

This is a slasher/torture/horror genre picture to me, which I am not a fan of to begin with. Didn’t realize it going in. I probably would’ve followed MichaelB’s approach and avoided it.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#36 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:12 am

tenia wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:32 am
I had a different experience with the movie, hence my sligth disagreement with you, but I see what you're pointing out, and I guess I'll keep that in mind next time I watch it, since it's been quite some time now, and maybe I just missed some stuff then.
I'm sorry, I never really acknowledged your experience, did I? I get where you're coming from. I see where this movie could be terrifying--to be confronted with the possibility of horrific violence, in a situation in which one could imagine oneself without knowing how one would react, for what seems to be the most arbitrary and casual of reasons. I don't share this feeling, I think the film kind of fumbles it, but I wouldn't dispute someone who did.
fraublucher wrote: Also, from what I can remember was that I was annoyed at the passiveness of the family.
Haneke seems to want us to have contempt for them--if not all the way through, at least at the start. He throws their patrician, blue-blood lifestyle in our face, which the killers seem designed to mock, and he has them act as stereotypically ineffective rich people without street skills, as it were. Just look at the husband's actions: a stranger in his house deeply upsets his wife, and his reaction is to scold her like a child instead of standing up for her; he caps this by giving one of the killers a pathetic slap on the cheek and then turn his back to them(!) when they threaten him. Pretty sure Haneke is trying to incite the audience to root against the family the way they do in say, a Friday the 13th movie, only to rip the rug out with the swift and unpleasant violence that kicks things off (the golf club). It's not effective because Haneke doesn't understand how slasher films work or why an audience might be rooting for Jason or Freddy. It only works when it's inadvertent. It doesn't work when you're nakedly courting it, especially when it's a part of lesson time.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#37 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:25 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:12 am
tenia wrote:I had a different experience with the movie, hence my sligth disagreement with you, but I see what you're pointing out, and I guess I'll keep that in mind next time I watch it, since it's been quite some time now, and maybe I just missed some stuff then.
I'm sorry, I never really acknowledged your experience, did I? I get where you're coming from. I see where this movie could be terrifying--to be confronted with the possibility of horrific violence, in a situation in which one could imagine oneself without knowing how one would react, for what seems to be the most arbitrary and casual of reasons. I don't share this feeling, I think the film kind of fumbles it, but I wouldn't dispute someone who did.
Don't worry, it's no problem. It's been a long time since I have seen the movie, so again, maybe I missed some stuff then or whatever, but I both understand the points that you make and also see them as not reflecting how I felt with the movie. It happens, and I just wanted to emphasize that while your explanation makes a lot of sense to me, still, I felt differently.

On the family passiveness, I agree totally with you. I think Haneke paint them as relatively dumb and coward. I'm not sure if it's to assert the superiority of Paul and Peter over them, or as a way to defuse any possible suspense as to what the outcome will be, but it might just be a way to trying to balance our sympathy to them by giving us a hard time feeling sorry for them, only to then make it even harder to position ourselves with the main characters since the means possibly rooting for obviously sadistic characters.
Mr Sausage wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:12 am
It's not effective because Haneke doesn't understand how slasher films work or why an audience might be rooting for Jason or Freddy.
I would rather think of this as when Pasolini places the audience as a voyeur at the end of Salo, as if he's telling us "deep down, you came here precisely for this". In the end, I'm not sure one is suppose to root for anyone, and that's precisely, I think, what Haneke wanted to achieve : confusing the viewers.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#38 Post by Big Ben » Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:08 pm

I question Haneke's sincerity though about certain things. He absolutely strikes me as someone who would say something unbelievably pretentious to create an effect. He wouldn't continue to promote Funny Games if he didn't want it out there.

Funny Games always felt like I was being reminded that when I watched a horror film I was being told that I was indeed partaking in something I should be more reflective on. I have never been able to fathom why anyone would root for Freddy, Michael or Jason but here we are. I don't think it's disingenuous to say "Hey maybe you should reflect on this". By creating a distancing effect in the film Haneke creates a place of confusion like tenia says, where killers can break the fourth wall to continue their carnage, and in doing so creates a space where these characters are never safe. You're not supposed to say "This is badass!" like society expects you to when Jason kills his umpteenth victim.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#39 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:48 pm

It's indeed something different to rooting for Grand Guignol gore effects and Jason disposing his humpteenth stupid horny topless teenager girl. I think it's rather questioning what we, as viewers, are getting out of that, what we came here looking for. Do we want to root for the killers, since the family is dumb ? Hum, maybe. Well, then, that's what you get for it.
I often read Haneke's movies to be "punishing", and in this regard, it seems this adjective would be quite adequate when reading Funny Games this way. The reflection here would be "what pleasure (if any) was I looking for here ?" and by breaking the fourth wall, it definitely seems to be judging us, the viewers, just like Pasolini did when using POV shots at the end of Salo.

I agree with Mr Sausage though : it does feel like a role-play, like a game, as if in the end, no matter how awful this is, no matter how willing you can be to empathise with the family, there's nothing serious here. I wouldn't say it's all for "fun" or for "the laughs", but it does look like a game.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#40 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 16, 2019 1:58 pm

Moralizing about Jason Voorhees is like moralizing about Tom and Jerry. It’s cartoons hurting cartoons. Who cares.

Haneke’s critique is shallow. And it’s too suffocating to allow for reflection. Haneke is not posing questions, he’s giving answers.

Plenty of major filmmakers (Hitchcock, de Palma, Fincher) have seen the audience as perverts and indulged it, but at least they didn’t sit there wagging their fingers and delivering sermons while they were at it.
Haneke is in the ludicrous position of being Russ Meyer and Mary Whitehouse at the same time. Giving you what you want (or what he thinks you want) and then carefully ensuring you don’t enjoy it. Come to think of it, he’s rather like his piano teacher in that bathroom scene.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#41 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Feb 16, 2019 2:10 pm

The absurdness of Jason, Freddie and Michael allows one to suspend belief, so to treat the audience to candy for their depraved, dark sides of their personalities. Where as the two schmucks in Funny Games could be neighbors in my building. It's much more disturbing and therefore makes the families passiveness even more unsettling. It's like Haneke could have just put a pair of Lions in a big cage with a flock of lambs.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#42 Post by denti alligator » Sat Feb 16, 2019 2:56 pm

I think what Haneke said about this film he meant, which is, you know, a bit strange. After a screening of the American version a friend of mine said to him something to the effect of the line of criticism expressed in this thread, to which he responded: "Are you calling me a sadist?" My friend's retort: "You'd be in good company."

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#43 Post by Brian C » Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:18 pm

I don’t agree with the criticism of the family’s passiveness. We know, as the audience, that they’re in terrible mortal danger, because we’ve long since been conditioned to understand that every sideways encounter in movies is with a killer.

But real life isn’t really like that. In real life, you try to de-escalate, because it’s almost always the right strategy. In real life, you actually don’t expect to get clubbed in your own house as soon as you turn your back, no matter how oddly your guests are acting. Because that shit really only happens in movies.

I guess what I’m saying in a larger sense is that I didn’t feel like I was being made to look upon the family with contempt. Rather, I thought that the film’s effectiveness comes from the way it takes basically normal people and drops them into an encounter with movie villains that are simply beyond their rational understanding. The touchstone I compare it to isn’t a slasher like Freddie or Jason, but more the intelligent, debonair psychopath like Hans Gruber. What if someone like that was loosed on the world, without an equal movie character force like John McClane to stop him?

And that’s interesting to me, since one of my hobbyhorses over the years has become the way that fantasy and reality have become culturally blurred. Which of course is also a theme common to Haneke’s work in general. But it’s also why I don’t see the film as a scold, despite Haneke’s own insistence that it is! And that’s fine, it’s obviously not the first case of intentional fallacy I’ve come across.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#44 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:59 pm

In some ways the missing link companion piece to Funny Games is probably Time of the Wolf, which opens with what might be considered a 'prepper' family escaping an unspecified civilisation ending issue (whether natural disaster or the French equivalent of Brexit!) and immediately features a rather shocking sequence in another summer home that catapults the remains of the family off into a kind of limbo (or waystation) without any of their resources. A limbo that even welcomes the murderous family into the clan at the station without consequence at the mid-point (because there are seemingly no representatives of law, justice or morality left, except those that people are fashioning for themselves).

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#45 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:03 pm

Brian C wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:18 pm
But real life isn’t really like that. In real life, you try to de-escalate, because it’s almost always the right strategy. In real life, you actually don’t expect to get clubbed in your own house as soon as you turn your back, no matter how oddly your guests are acting. Because that shit really only happens in movies.
I don't agree. Everyone brings their personal living experiences into watching films. My grandmother had an intruder come into her house. Fortunately, my father and uncle were there. It didn't go well for the intruder. He was pushed against the wall and lifted several inches off the ground by his neck. He was told never to come there again or else. Then was thrown out the door, down several steps on to the sidewalk.

I would like to think that is the right tact for self preservation than to have an intruder have his way with you. But I guess it's all about the make up of the individuals.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#46 Post by tenia » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:48 pm

Going this way, Brian C has a point about how we, as viewers, would spontaneously use our movie conditioning to judge the family's reaction. IIRC, they still seem quite dumb-strucked more than anything, hence why the viewers might have a hard time feeling sorry for them, but I can see how, if this all meta after all, one would consider their characters as a movie trope and look at them from there.

But one could also counter-argue that this remains indeed a movie after all, so why should they react in a real-life-type manner ? Do they have to make sense from this perspective, or can't they purely remain cinematographically bound ?

There probably are tons of movies whose characters' behaviors only make sense within these movies, but that's also, well, movies. But again, that's why I think the characters themselves aren't the ones being looked at or examined or whatever. They're just Haneke's tools to talk to us directly and judge us directly.
Brian C wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:18 pm
The touchstone I compare it to isn’t a slasher like Freddie or Jason, but more the intelligent, debonair psychopath like Hans Gruber. What if someone like that was loosed on the world, without an equal movie character force like John McClane to stop him?
You'd think by now, all these movies would have given enough ideas for such master minds to appear somewhere, and yet, it doesn't seem like it.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#47 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:52 pm

Brian C wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 3:18 pm
I don’t agree with the criticism of the family’s passiveness. We know, as the audience, that they’re in terrible mortal danger, because we’ve long since been conditioned to understand that every sideways encounter in movies is with a killer.

But real life isn’t really like that. In real life, you try to de-escalate, because it’s almost always the right strategy. In real life, you actually don’t expect to get clubbed in your own house as soon as you turn your back, no matter how oddly your guests are acting. Because that shit really only happens in movies.

I guess what I’m saying in a larger sense is that I didn’t feel like I was being made to look upon the family with contempt. Rather, I thought that the film’s effectiveness comes from the way it takes basically normal people and drops them into an encounter with movie villains that are simply beyond their rational understanding. The touchstone I compare it to isn’t a slasher like Freddie or Jason, but more the intelligent, debonair psychopath like Hans Gruber. What if someone like that was loosed on the world, without an equal movie character force like John McClane to stop him?

And that’s interesting to me, since one of my hobbyhorses over the years has become the way that fantasy and reality have become culturally blurred. Which of course is also a theme common to Haneke’s work in general. But it’s also why I don’t see the film as a scold, despite Haneke’s own insistence that it is! And that’s fine, it’s obviously not the first case of intentional fallacy I’ve come across.
Frau Blucher makes a good point: whose "real life" are we talking about? What you say is true for people of a certain socio-economic status, people for whom violence and desperation and chaos is pretty alien. The naturalism people perceive in the film comes from how we understand the family's social status. Their blue blood signifiers are also signifiers of their vulnerability. If you were to suggest setting the film in rural Texas, everyone would chime in with jokes about the killers being shot within the first five minutes.

I don't at all think the husband's actions are merely an uncommon commitment to naturalism. They're a signal of his naivety and ineffectualism, things the killers will use to torment him later. The wife seems to have better situational awareness, but her ineffectualism comes from being dominated by her husband (or at least lacking his support). We're not watching a documentary. This is a didactic movie; these characters are laden with significance. The way they are humiliated and rendered impotent is directly related to their gender and respective status. Their humiliation is horrible and pitiable, and yet set up as tho' deserved. There is no respite to be found in either pity or contempt, and I suspect Haneke does it to further alienate us from the material.

Even more than the family, the killers are designed to be contemptible, or more accurately, irritating. They're prep school douche bags with punchable faces and glib, provoking mannerisms. We're compelled to root for the family even tho' the film has placed them in a social and economic world that viewers tend to find unsympathetic (rich people, when not villains, play roles where they go through punishing but relatable trials in order to be redeemed).

It's interesting that the defenders of the film cite its naturalism when so much of the film's purpose is to undermine its own naturalism to show you the game underneath. For all the believable acting, the characters are still inhabiting pre-determined roles in a conventional set-up. The killers know this and use it to taunt not so much the family but us, the viewer. When the characters' actions violate the conventions of the setting and the roles within it, the killers can undo those actions and force everything back onto the train tracks. The naturalism is just the unpleasant surface used to aggravate and depress the audience. Haneke's point is to implicate us in the creation and enjoyment of these conventions by, well, jerking us around and wagging his finger.

But what Haneke doesn't realize is that people like horror movies and thrillers out of much purer motives than the ones that caused him to make this film.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#48 Post by nitin » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:08 pm

I would totally agree that family represents european bourgeois stereotypes, and obviously people from a different background/culture/class would most likely react differently to the situation, but I am not sure we are necessarily meant to look down at them. Chabrol mined similar territory (albeit more subtly and arguably more successfully) for years. What holds this back for me, and I think this is where I totally agree with Mr Sausage, is that it is all superficially depicted and structured like a cruel game. Once it is clear the film and characters are directly performing for the audience, any disturbing aspects are minimised if not totally diminished.

I also think a fairer comparison is not so much to Freddy, Jason and co but to the movies that followed like the Saw (which seemed to share the artificial gamesmanship but in a non didactic way) and Hostel series. In comparison to those, Funny Games works much more effectively to me but the didacticism still jars.

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Re: 975 Funny Games

#49 Post by Brian C » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:16 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:03 pm
I don't agree. Everyone brings their personal living experiences into watching films. My grandmother had an intruder come into her house. Fortunately, my father and uncle were there. It didn't go well for the intruder. He was pushed against the wall and lifted several inches off the ground by his neck. He was told never to come there again or else. Then was thrown out the door, down several steps on to the sidewalk.

I would like to think that is the right tact for self preservation than to have an intruder have his way with you. But I guess it's all about the make up of the individuals.
Fair enough, and I suppose what I said was rather broad. Still, though, this is a very different situation than the one presented in the film, no? The killers in the film aren't "intruders" at the point in question, they were posing as neighbors wanting to borrow some eggs. And another key narrative point here is that Georg and Anna had already seen them with a neighbor, so even though their behavior quickly escalates and gets out of hand, they had good reason to be confused and slow to understand their peril. Dealing with that situation is much different than a home invader like you describe.

That said, I do still maintain that most people get through life without this kind of violent encounter. Obviously actual murder is not a common cause of death except in the most dangerous areas of the world. Most situations can be defused by not escalating them. I mean, I live in a city with a reputation for crime and violence, and I rely on public transportation to get around, and if I acted violently to protect myself every time I encountered someone who was acting bizarrely or aggressively to me, I'd be dead or at least in prison. Because it's just a dumb way to go about interacting with the world. I agree with you that a home invader has already crossed a line, but I also think that Georg was justified in not acting more forcefully than he does.
tenia wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:48 pm
But one could also counter-argue that this remains indeed a movie after all, so why should they react in a real-life-type manner ? Do they have to make sense from this perspective, or can't they purely remain cinematographically bound ?
This is a good summary actually of why I think the film is interesting. Mr. Sausage says that the film doesn't ask questions and only provides answers, but I think questions like this are what make the film effective for me.
Mr Sausage wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:52 pm
Frau Blucher makes a good point: whose "real life" are we talking about? What you say is true for people of a certain socio-economic status, people for whom violence and desperation and chaos is pretty alien. The naturalism people perceive in the film comes from how we understand the family's social status. Their blue blood signifiers are also signifiers of their vulnerability. If you were to suggest setting the film in rural Texas, everyone would chime in with jokes about the killers being shot within the first five minutes.
Sure but that's just a stereotype about Texans (that is, to be sure, gleefully perpetuated by Texans themselves). People can make jokes about whatever they want but that has no more bearing on what rural Texas is really like than jokes about how dumb teenagers are in horror movies reflect what teenagers are actually like.
I don't at all think the husband's actions are merely an uncommon commitment to naturalism. They're a signal of his naivety and ineffectualism, things the killers will use to torment him later. The wife seems to have better situational awareness, but her ineffectualism comes from being dominated by her husband (or at least lacking his support). We're not watching a documentary. This is a didactic movie; these characters are laden with significance. The way they are humiliated and rendered impotent is directly related to their gender and respective status. Their humiliation is horrible and pitiable, and yet set up as tho' deserved. There is no respite to be found in either pity or contempt, and I suspect Haneke does it to further alienate us from the material.

Even more than the family, the killers are designed to be contemptible, or more accurately, irritating. They're prep school douche bags with punchable faces and glib, provoking mannerisms. We're compelled to root for the family even tho' the film has placed them in a social and economic world that viewers tend to find unsympathetic (rich people, when not villains, play roles where they go through punishing but relatable trials in order to be redeemed).

It's interesting that the defenders of the film cite its naturalism when so much of the film's purpose is to undermine its own naturalism to show you the game underneath. For all the believable acting, the characters are still inhabiting pre-determined roles in a conventional set-up. The killers know this and use it to taunt not so much the family but us, the viewer. When the characters' actions violate the conventions of the setting and the roles within it, the killers can undo those actions and force everything back onto the train tracks. The naturalism is just the unpleasant surface used to aggravate and depress the audience. Haneke's point is to implicate us in the creation and enjoyment of these conventions by, well, jerking us around and wagging his finger.

I don't feel entirely comfortable with the term "naturalism" in this context, since whatever his strengths I don't think "naturalism" is something Haneke achieves or sets out to achieve. I agree with you that the world of the film is highly artificial and designed, as are the universes in Haneke's films in general.

I think the term "rationality" is something closer to what I mean. I think the family is set up to behave in a way that is recognizably (to me, anyway!) rational, some approximation of how actual people in their situation might be expected to react instead of how we'd expect movie characters that are audience surrogates acting out audience fantasies would want them to behave. I mean, we all want to see the hero punch the jerk in the face, right? But we also recognize that people who go around actually doing that in real life tend to be ... assholes, not to put to fine a point on it.

But even still, this quality of rationality is something that applies only to the family - my point earlier was that the killers themselves are a different category of being. They're not designed to behave as rational people in a familiar world, they're movie characters (and self-aware movie characters at that!). It's similar, I suppose, to the tension that fuels the first half of The Terminator, where we're presented with a character in Sarah Connor who is nothing if not exceedingly normal, and forced to deal with the introduction of a character in the Terminator that simply operates under a different set of rules and constraints that are beyond anything that Sarah can process. Of course, Cameron's film turns into a standard movie-hero thing narratively, and Haneke obviously would never let his movie do that and gives us a more rational world where the Terminator would obviously mow down Sarah without any trouble and then the story would end.

I suppose it's in the eye of the beholder whether or not that's contemptuous of an audience, and I can understand the argument. But I don't see the need to attach that kind of value judgment to it. I don't think there's anything brilliant about Haneke giving us a feel-bad story instead of confirming our expectations; it's just a different kind of story, and on it's own terms, I think it's effective.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 975 Funny Games

#50 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Feb 16, 2019 11:42 pm

Brian C wrote:Sure but that's just a stereotype about Texans (that is, to be sure, gleefully perpetuated by Texans themselves). People can make jokes about whatever they want but that has no more bearing on what rural Texas is really like than jokes about how dumb teenagers are in horror movies reflect what teenagers are actually like.
Of course you're right. And that's the reason I said people would "chime in with jokes" rather than say that "Texans would do A". I was talking more about our conceptions of people's behaviour. That "real life" you mentioned is something we would expect from people in Funny Games' milieu, but not one we would expect from, say, a rural Texan or a meth dealer in the Ozarks. The reality may differ from our conceptions, but I think you'd agree that this movie wouldn't work in Winter's Bone's setting.
Brian C wrote:I don't feel entirely comfortable with the term "naturalism" in this context, since whatever his strengths I don't think "naturalism" is something Haneke achieves or sets out to achieve. I agree with you that the world of the film is highly artificial and designed, as are the universes in Haneke's films in general.

I think the term "rationality" is something closer to what I mean. I think the family is set up to behave in a way that is recognizably (to me, anyway!) rational, some approximation of how actual people in their situation might be expected to react instead of how we'd expect movie characters that are audience surrogates acting out audience fantasies would want them to behave. I mean, we all want to see the hero punch the jerk in the face, right? But we also recognize that people who go around actually doing that in real life tend to be ... assholes, not to put to fine a point on it.
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that naturalism was necessarily your term. I do in fact think the film uses naturalism as part of its bag of techniques. But it seems like we agree. Naturalism is just my term for what you described, the use of elements that appear to come out of life more than works of art. This doesn't preclude also using formalist techniques. I just think the naturalism in this film can sometimes dominate the discussion, and we need to keep in mind that no element of the film is only there for reasons of naturalism (or insert preferred term). There is always another reason in addition to that. Even the most naturalist moment is designed to mean something about film and also about the viewer who watches such films.

Although, funnily, I think the way the husband reacts, slapping the guy like he's a little boy and then walking off, is way more assholish than if he'd punched him, considering he was just threatened in a very aggressive manner. The latter reads like survival instinct, the former misplaced parental discipline (and also codes the husband as feminine). My point is not that it's obvious the father should've punched him--that could still've turned out badly. It's more that the way he escalates to violence (and it's him and not the killers who initiates violence) codes his character in some key ways. Certainly it comes off as a feeble and inept way to dominate the killers. It also reeks of an assumed superiority that, if he'd properly read the situation, he'd have seen he didn't have.
Brian C wrote:But even still, this quality of rationality is something that applies only to the family - my point earlier was that the killers themselves are a different category of being. They're not designed to behave as rational people in a familiar world, they're movie characters (and self-aware movie characters at that!). It's similar, I suppose, to the tension that fuels the first half of The Terminator, where we're presented with a character in Sarah Connor who is nothing if not exceedingly normal, and forced to deal with the introduction of a character in the Terminator that simply operates under a different set of rules and constraints that are beyond anything that Sarah can process. Of course, Cameron's film turns into a standard movie-hero thing narratively, and Haneke obviously would never let his movie do that and gives us a more rational world where the Terminator would obviously mow down Sarah without any trouble and then the story would end.
We agree. For me the key difference is: everyone in Funny Games is performing a role in a preordained structure, but only the killers know they're performing a role, and they spend the movie giving various performances for the audience. They're in on the game, but they also let you know that you are in on the game, and therefore complicit in it.

This is part of why I didn't find it especially harrowing. However natural the performances and many of the situations, the movie was always revealing the strings. Once you know it's all performative and part of an intellectual exercise, it stops being scary and becomes an unpleasant slog. Far from having my expectations upended, I expected to be fucked with and to see various conventions pointedly broken in some ugly way. The credits prepare you for it; they announce "I'm going to jolt you perpetually with sudden left turns." Overturning convention does in fact become its own convention.
Brian C wrote:I suppose it's in the eye of the beholder whether or not that's contemptuous of an audience, and I can understand the argument. But I don't see the need to attach that kind of value judgment to it. I don't think there's anything brilliant about Haneke giving us a feel-bad story instead of confirming our expectations; it's just a different kind of story, and on it's own terms, I think it's effective.
You're not really taking it on its own terms, tho'. You're ignoring its raison d'etre in favour of appreciating it for everything it wishes to critique and condemn. Haneke isn't trolling when he says continuing to watch this movie means you're dearly in need of its lessons. Finding it effective as a horror movie is precisely the problem in his eyes, and he's made a whole movie that tries to sicken and repulse you into turning it off, or barring that, lecture you until you give up this perversity. Or so he'd like you to think. Personally I suspect he wants it both ways, to cater to your perversities but retain moral superiority over you as well.

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