Controversial for its gratuitous violence, Funny Games opens with family of three--mother, Ann (Naomi Watts), father, George (Tim Roth) and son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) driving to their lakeside summer home. Upon arrival, they drive past their neighbors' place. We don't see it for ourselves, but we're told the neighbor and his wife are oddly stiff and aloof, a fact that doesn't sit well, especially with Ann.
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
Shortly, the stoic neighbor drops by with a white-gloved companion, Paul (Michael Pitt), whom he introduces as a co-worker. Ann and George's dog barks incessant, reacting to the visitors. Prescient dog. Soon, another white-gloved young man, Peter (Brady Corbet), drops by the house to borrow eggs from Ann. The sadistic games begin.
The plot isn't the draw. It's about two young men on a quest for torture and violence. The movie plays out like a nightmare begging the question--why these folks and why? How did the crime spree begin? The two know what they are doing and they are polite, calm and comfortable carrying out their misdeeds. Which of the two is the mastermind? How did they pick Ann and George and their neighbors? Is there anything Ann and George could have done to prevent their victimization or, once in the predicament, outsmart the torturers at their games?
This is a remake of an eponymous French film from 1997, both written and directed by Michael Haneke (of Caché and The Piano Teacher fame). As and after I watched, I kept asking the same question--Why? Yes, these types of crimes occur. You don't always get the answers and that makes it worse. Without answers, you don't know what to avoid or try and prevent or if anything is preventable. Life is unpredictable. Timing is everything. Is the theme to live well while you can because you just never know?
We don't get much information about Anne and George. Before anything happens, I don't particularly dislike them, yet I don't care much about them. This seems intentional. I come to care more about Ann than George because she takes action, while George resigns himself. Yet, we learn little about the torturers. Does this not create further distance if we cannot connect with anyone? Violent, disturbing and open-ended, Funny Games left me, weeks later, unable to shake the after-effects. Does that deem it good? I cannot decide.
Director: Michael Haneke
Run time: 110 minutes