Here’s a film that successfully experiments and exemplifies Real Life Experience vs. Borrowed Experience from Media. Spoilers ahead. My preamble and disclaimer is that I have not watched the original Austrian FUNNY GAMES 1997.
FUNNY GAMES U.S., 2007, Written & Directed by Michael Haneke
Starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet and Devon Gearhart
Tartan / Warner Independent Pictures / Celluloid Dreams release
Okay. This film is one of the few that scared the crap outta me, to use the colloquial phrasing. FUNNY GAMES U.S. crawled in, messed around with my insides, and left me with questions that lasted days after my first viewing. Despite the film’s open ending, it lends a cathartic experience in regarding violence.
A lot of critics and viewers hate this film, calling it patronizing, unimaginative and pointless. That rejection is understandable – this film is really heavy-handed. The 4th wall is openly broken in this film. Michael Pitt looks into camera and directs many of his questions, quips and condescending remarks right at you.
The 4th Wall Broken, however, works for me. I got sucked in. I felt the violence struck upon Naomi’s pretty head and Tim Roth’s sobbing face. The visceral feeling was underlined visually – two beautiful, preppy boys carrying out sadistic games on a beautiful family, in a perfect, sunny, literally-swathed-in-white mansion in the Hamptons/Connecticut/Where White People Vacation. All that beauty serves as a backdrop to extreme violence – a brilliant use of contrast.
Slightly tangental – the use of Naked City’s INSANE black-metal-experimental-noise song in the opening sequence is PERFECT. Beautiful family + horrific, brutal music = hilarious and disturbing. So good.
Experimenting with screen violence and its effects on society is a concept that a lot of film artists and students salivate over. David Hall from EAT MY BRAINS on the central point of the film:
More provocation than conventional cinematic thriller, this was a film with a simple clear intent; to provoke the viewer into testing and examining their own relationship with – and desire for – screen violence. “Anyone who leaves the cinema doesn’t need the film”, Haneke opined on release, “and anyone who stays does.”
Heavy-handed or not, I think Haneke is successful in making viewers feeling SOMETHING. Disgust, humor, entertainment, horror, annoyance, numbness. Trolling some negative critical reviews, I see that many reviewers just hate the fact that Haneke is experimenting with this In Between Worlds idea again. Cliche, sure, but it’s done well in FUNNY GAMES U.S.