A family settles into their new vacation home, which just so happens to be the next stop for a pair of young, articulate, white-gloved serial killers on an excursion through the neighborhood.
France, Great Britain, Germany, USA. All these countries contributed in funding Michael Haneke's remake of his disturbing 1997 Austrian film. And for what? For enjoyment? Unless extremely desensitized, you'll find it very hard to enjoy this movie. For our own benefit, then? Granted, the film does make a valid point, raising the issue of "is violence right in an entertainment format". Whatever the reason, this English language version of the original "Funny Games" is painful, pointless and horrible to watch.
We start the film with the sound of relaxing operatic music, which complements what's happening onscreen; a middle-class American couple and their child are driving along to their Holiday home to spend a pleasant weekend on the lake with their boat. Suddenly the noise changes and loud, violent, heavy metal rock music blears over the top, with the opening title credits. The film follows the same trend most of the way through. Just when you think everything's going to be fine and rosy, Haneke presses the "let them suffer" switch on his control panel, and we have to watch this family being psychologically tortured and terrorised at the hands of two seemingly polite youths. Haneke's decision to re-film his past effort shot for shot, word for word could be because he realised the main perpetrators for enjoying onscreen violence are the Americans, who eject from their disc drives anything that's in a foreign language and features subtitles. With an English language version, he could chastise the lovers of Hostel, Saw and the like by giving them what they ask for but in a harrowing way. This is where the film falls flat. The things we see onscreen are upsetting, harrowing and disturbing. Unfortunately, however, we seem to be observing this family's ordeal through one way glass, not being able to connect with them or feel their pain. This detached feeling is not easily explained, but it may be down to the fact that, as a whole, this film feels like a punishment. We are being punished for the violence we watch. It would be so much more effective if our eyes were opened in a way were haven't thought about. After viewing, it is impossible to feel grateful. Instead of coming across as ironic, the cruel and vicious antics in the film feel hypocritical on Haneke's part. The ending isn't powerful, rewarding or entertaining. And instead of changing your ways after listening to Haneke's "you are sick, sick people" filmic lecture, you may just want to dust off and watch your two disc extended edition of Hostel II just to spite him.
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