Thu March 13, 2008
Are you sure you want a second home?
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"Fiction is real . . . . What you see in the movies is what you see literally." Funny Games
It's not Home Alone. It's not Panic Room. Funny Games is a combination of the two: part satire of the audience's expectations about the home invasion genre; large part scary horror/thriller about two psycho young men straight out of Stanley Kubrick's amoral hoodlums in Clockwork Orange. This is one scary movie compromised only by a larger purpose from writer/director Michael Haneke.
George (Tim Roth), Anna (Naomi Watts, also executive producer of the film), and their little son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) visit their posh vacation home only to be beset upon by two clean-cut caddies, Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt), replete with white sweaters and gloves. Cinematographer Darius Khondi's shots emphasize the sterility and blinding torture. The bad guys' false respect also belies the horrible games they plan for the family after dad has been incapacitated.
Austrian helmer Haneke did this same film, European version, in 1997, leaving little out in this version ten years later but adding an impressive Watts as heroine. In fact, while he guarantees the enduring elements of the genre by reproducing the same film, he continues his brand of playfulness by cutting away from the more horrible scenes and further disappointing us by not showing the nude Anna (a very fit Watts).
The piece de resistance of his revolution is a couple of shots with the lead thug, Paul, talking directly into the camera about our participation in the scenario. By confounding the sequence of events, Haneke indicts our tyrannical expectations, only to make them irrelevant to the unusual horror at hand but accurate about media manipulation.
A facile plot twist is Haneke's surrender to the conventions of screen horror telling; otherwise, he'll make you question your recent purchase of the second-home paradise where being away from it all is not the safest place to be.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com