The overlooked intentions of Funny Games (1997)


Credits: Alejandro SF2806 via Wikipedia Commons // Creative Commons

A  month ago, I finally got around to watching Amour. As the credits rolled towards Michael Haneke’s name, I immediately opened his IMDb page – I had to watch his other films. That’s when I saw he sported the title of both writer and director to Funny Games. Funny Games centers around a family as they are taken hostage by two young men, Peter and Paul. The two then proceed to torment and torture them through their  inhumane “games.”

I couldn’t comprehend how the sensitive filmmaker Haneke showed himself to be in Amour could create the violent sadistic monstrosity that is Funny Games. I was in disbelief, I had to see the film for a second time. Perhaps I overlooked a metaphor or an underlying theme that would redeem the director’s choices. Well, I wouldn’t be writing a 500 word article had I found nothing–we’re not up to the full Talon-article length yet.

Haneke purposely angers his audience; Peter and Paul’s grotesque games aren’t unintentional or simply for the horror factor. He wants the audience to feel the family’s frustration feels every time their attempts to escape fail. I found that what prevents most people from enjoying the film are the heroic expectations that are constantly broken.  

SPOILER ALERT: The first person that dies is the son, going against the conventions that assert the child will survive until the end. Through most of the film’s running time, the audience feels hopeless for these characters. And just when Anne seems to get the upper hand when she shoots Peter, Paul literally rewinds time to undo her triumph. This may seem like a cheap move, yet, on the other hand, it suggests that Paul is more than a person. Eventually, the rest of the family is killed, leaving no protagonist to root for.

A certain attraction to violence is a human instinct, we can’t help ourselves.

— Thomas Park

In this interview regarding violence, Haneke discusses the nature of automobile accident observers and witnesses. “Looking at horrible situations is so fascinating, because the spectator is not directly concerned.” With this in mind, Funny Games makes way more sense. This film is more of a statement against the violence in mass media and the people who simply observe and do nothing about it. Hence, the lack of motivation for Peter and Paul’s heinous doings; they are mere reflections of the mindless violence occurring on screen along with the people who mindlessly enjoy it.

During my third viewing, I noticed that there is little actual violence shown. Despite violent acts happening, much of it occurs off screen. For example, every family member’s murder is off screen, including their dog. In addition, there isn’t a whole lot of blood either. However, when reflecting on the movie, it all seems to have happened right in center frame. The human imagination is truly frightening.

Audiences, including myself, mislabel Funny Games as a horror film; it’s one reason why it’s been given such a bad reputation. If people understood what the film tries to voice, the film would’ve been better received–it’s a shame.