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Haneke’s “Funny Games” (1998)

2009 April 15
by Michelle Bennett

Going along with the movie theme we seem to be following, I recently saw “Funny Games” in a screening for another class, and in our discussion of the movie, I was struck by the overlap between this movie and the video game/RL frontier that we’ve been talking about. This movie is not for the squeamish. It is INTENSE and really stressful. These two innocent-looking twenty-somethings visit the lake house of an affluent family in Austria and basically torture them and kill them off in the span of the two or so hours of the film. But this is not the interesting part. The interesting part is that the assailants constantly break the “fourth wall” and address the audience directly, saying things like, “We should torture them a bit longer, right? We’re not up to feature-length yet, and you came to be entertained.” This is terrifying. And I think it’s a clear example of what we’ve been talking about, about how the real world and the world on our computers not only get confused for one another, but sometimes actually blur into each other. In this case, the effect was chilling and uncomfortable. I know we’ll talk more about when actual money gets worked into video games later, which is also an off-putting interaction between RL/fiction, but I thought this film served as a good other-media example of this principle.

One Response
  1. Roisin Foley permalink
    April 19, 2009

    This reminds me of the genre of super popular recent horror films I’ve heard described as “torture porn.” They include films like the Hostel and SAW franchises, in which the plot basically consists of watching people be tortured to death in various gruesome ways for about three hours, often with a strange and sickening twist of eroticism, especially surrounding female victims of this violence. See this review of “Captivity” for an angry reviewer’s take on the genre.

    I’m not arguing that “Funny Games” is torture porn, rather I’m interested in the differences/similarities between Haneke’s filmmaking and that of the writers, directors, and marketing teams behind torture porn, and how they go about negotatiating the relationships between fiction and reality. When people (a LOT of people) go see films like SAW and Captivity, they are grossed out but not necessarily implicated in how sick the conceits of those films are. But the breaking of the fourth wall in “Funny Games” implicates the audience, accusing them of the kind of depraved voyeurism which is intrinsic in the enjoyment of torture porn films.

    One of the comments on the Pajiba review of “Captivity” really got to me:

    I have a friend whose brother was talking about this film the other day, about how much he wanted to see it. I asked him, “Why?”

    He replied, “Dude, it’s a hot chick getting tortured.”

    I’m still waiting for an explanation instead of a disturbing revelation about his psyche.

    Posted by: Kevin Longrie at July 11, 2007 2:48 PM

    I mean. Wow. In any event, I’m interested in the implications of these films for representations of gender in the media. I also know that there is an American remake of Haneke’s film, which I’ve heard is basically a shot-for-shot remake, but I’d be interested to know if there are any differences between the two for anyone who has seen both that might add to the discussion.

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