Back in 1997, director Michael Haneke directed a film in Austria called Funny Games. It was an experimental film, one that I have never seen. At some point, someone decided that it should be adapted to English for American audiences. I am not sure whose decision this was, whether it was a studio executive, a producer, or Haneke himself.
Having now seen the American version, I would have to believe that it was Haneke who made the decision, and not only because he wrote and directed both versions. As I left the theater, I cannot picture an executive watching this bleak, twisted film and saying, "Hey! Let's make this in English, the kids'll love it!" It just isn't that kind of movie.
Funny Games is a daring film that is an exercise in excruciating terror. It is a graphic, disturbing journey into a situation that feels almost too real. One could almost imagine a situation like this actually happening. For all I know, something like this may have already happened, and if not, I am sure someone could be contemplating such a dark deed. Scary isn't it? Michael Haneke takes us into the darkness with no chance for escape, no comic relief, no hope for salvation. It is a black hole of despair, the likes of which the big screen has not seen in some time.
Comparisons could be made to other torture-centric movies like Saw and Hostel, but there is something distinctly different in the way that it approaches the subject. Those other series are, more or less, passive experiences that invite you to watch but leave you safe and sound in your seat at the theater or in your home, but Funny Games is different. It implicates you in the goings on, it breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience. I had read something about the film doing this, but made no real note of it, so when it happened I was caught off guard. It drew me even further in, increasing my level of discomfort. There is no escaping it.