By Kyle | March 4, 2008
The psychological thriller “Funny Games,” opening March 14, rivals and probably tops the Ellen Page internet-predator film “Hard Candy” in disgusting, vile, vicious, incandescently brutal wickedness. So why did I love this evil film, one I would strongly disrecommend to almost everyone I know?
It has its roots in European drama, particularly (with its breaking of the fourth wall) Pirandello and definitely Pinter. The overwhelming, sickening terror of the movie–I’m serious, don’t see it if you have a weak stomach–is so pure and effective that you have to give it credit as one of the great horror movies. But it’s not just that. It’s also the blackest of satires. Satire of what, though? It comments on the conventions of horror movies, the unwritten rules. (Surely a child could not be hurt? Surely the climactic event can’t take place in the corner of the frame, barely visible, almost silent?) It’s a gleefully anarchic death-metal attack, but only by implication, on the consumption habits of the bourgeoisie, with our spacious summer homes and exquisite kitchens, while never being so crass as to deliver up any speeches on the hollow core of material things. I’m not a self-hating bourgeois, but when the arrow hits the target, I say so.
Like heavy metal, though, the film is interestingly hazy on ideology, nihilist but also something else. Its most effective satire is, I think, on upper-class language itself, on the denatured term “inappropriate” and the strictures of politeness; that’s where the Harold Pinter influence is most evident. You could also read it as a veiled attack on the upper class’s distaste for guns. There are times when one loaded gun could be worth all of your noble ideals and then some.
Writer-director Michael Haneke (who made the exact same film once before, under the same title, in 1997, when he was working in Europe) makes these points in ways that are way beyond extreme, though. Don’t see the film if you have a shred of humanity. I mainly recommend it to….film critics.