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The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: Funny Games

Do you ever eat foods that you know you don’t like, just to remind yourself why you don’t like them? I think that’s a good thing to do sometimes! The worst case scenario is that you might momentarily have a taste in your mouth that you continue to find unpleasant, but there’s also a chance that you will realize that your tastes have evolved and that you like this food now! Or, at the very least, you can reconfirm that your long-held idea about something remains accurate and feel confident that your worldview has been tested and holds up. I used to do this with honey mustard-flavored Combos a lot? Granted, I’m an adult now, and I don’t need to remind myself that I don’t like honey mustard-flavored Combos anymore. But the general idea is the same. Which is why sometimes I will watch scary movies even though, for the most part, I hate scary movies. What I’m saying is that I have already seen Funny Games. At least the original Funny Games of which this week’s Hunt nominee is a remake.

But sometimes in life, apparently, you have to watch Funny Games again. You know, to remind yourself why you hate watching Funny Games.

Funny Games is about an upper-middle-class (or maybe lower-upper-class) family who go to their vacation home to do whatever it is that upper-middle-class (or lower-upper-class) families do in their vacation homes. But before they have even unpacked their bags (literally, there is a scene in which Naomi Watts is distraught and goes upstairs to change her clothes, but her clothes are not upstairs, because they had just pulled in the driveway a few hours earlier and the bags are by the door), two young men come over wearing tennis clothes and white gloves and ask to borrow some eggs. Long story short, asking to borrow the eggs leads to breaking Tim Roth’s leg at the kneecap with a golf club, and then spending the rest of the movie torturing (both physically and pscyhologically) the couple and their child and, eventually SPOILER ALERT murdering all of them. As becomes apparent during the film, and at the end of the film, the boys have been doing this all over town. It is what the Germans call “ein murder spree.”

Funny Games (2007), directed by Michael Haneke, is a shot-for-shot remake of a film from 1997 called Funny Games, directed by Michael Haneke.

This guy knows what I’m talking about:

Now, I don’t know why Michael Haneke did a shot for shot remake of his own movie. It seems like kind of a pointless exercise. I also think that the remake dilutes the point of the original, and I also think that at least as an American viewer, there is something more interesting and more surprising in watching the original, which had actors that I did not recognize. No offense to all the hard work everyone did here, but I’ve already seen Naomi Watts get tortured a billion times. It’s like her thing.

But one thing is for certain: when Michael Haneke sets out to do a shot-for-shot remake, HE REALLY DOES A SHOT-FOR-SHOT REMAKE!

See?

He even got the bourgeois fridge right. Silk? The yuppies would kill (get it?) for that shit.

If anything, I was surprised HOW much the remake matched the original. Which I guess makes sense, since the original was supposed to be a satirical (I’m sure both I and Michael Haneke are using that word correctly) counter-point to the American obsession with violence. And so the references are often to American culture. Like, Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet start calling each other Beavis and Butthead at one point, but that’s actually taken directly from the original. And I had thought that the NASCAR on the TV during a particularly rough scene was clever, not even realizing/remembering that this was already right there, back in 1997, in Austria.

I remember when the remake came out, David Edelstein reviewed it for NPR, and he said that after he had watched the original, he “removed the DVD and snapped it over my knee.” Haha. Come on. I remember this review because that is so hilarious and ridiculous. What a little prince! David Edelstein is an adult who reviews movies for a living.

But anyway:

It seems to me that the reason that people nominated Funny Games for the Hunt was in an effort to challenge me on an argument that I made months ago that no one has ever set out to make a bad movie on purpose. And I maintain that position! Michael Haneke may have set out to make an upsetting movie, or a movie that is painfully uncomfortable to watch (and I think many would say that he succeeded, on both counts!) but he certainly didn’t set out to make a “bad” movie. He set out to make the best movie he possibly could, that had all of the effects that he wanted it to have.

One of those effects, of course, is to constantly have the characters talking to the camera, and undoing the action, and forcing the viewer to confront both his/her passive participation in the murders that are taking place, and also to suggest that movies–even nice movies–are dishonest, and manipulative, and “dangerous.” And the thing is: it works. I mean, you can complain about Haneke’s Brechtian deconstruction as being too grad-student-thesis statement, and you can question what the difference is between Funny Games and torture porn*, but he definitely achieves his ultimate objective, which is to make you actually think about what you are watching.

And this is where Funny Games differs from honey mustard-flavored Combos: I actually like this movie. I mean, I hate this movie. It’s scary, and it is mean. This movie hurts your feelings. But I think that it is an interesting movie. And I think that it works really hard, harder than most, to DO something. I’m not sure that it always succeeds. I’m not even sure I understand exactly WHAT it is trying to do (a matter made more complicated by there being two of them, in different languages, with different actors, made 10 years apart), but I respect it for its effort. This is a smart movie. There should be more smart movies.

STATUS: CASE DISMISSED!

That being said, I will never “taste” this movie again. Twice was more than enough. Ciao, bella.

Next week: In the Land of the Women. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.

*I think this is a stupid argument. There is a world of difference between this and many of the films in the “torture porn” genre. For one thing, even if you feel that it is failed, or even if you find it more unpleasant as a visceral experience than its proposed intellectual exercise would warrant, it still has a POINT to it, which makes all the difference in the world. Nothing makes me more angry than the movie Saw, in which countless irrevocable nightmare images are put into my eyes for absolutely no point whatsoever. “He’s teaching people to value life by making them chew their lips off.” Huh? No I do not want to play a game. (Not to mention the fact that this movie is virtually bloodless.)