Michael Haneke‘s Funny Games (US version) is a self reflective, metacinema intended to shock the audience ,alongside denying them any thrilling experience. The movie is more of a critique on how we see violence in movies, how a user takes an emotional stance towards it whereby in the process distancing itself from it, how viewer longs for characterization in order to nail down his own understanding so as to sympathize or rather hoping to empathize. Haneke doesn’t provides any of this. He tantalizes, draws you in but to leave nowhere close to anything and slowly it becomes irritating and disappointing but nevertheless you carry on.
The plot is simple enough. There’s an urbane family who’s spending their vacations on a lake side farm house. There appear two young men, who are somewhere in their early twenties and they start to slowly torturing the family. Initially it looks like a small altercation which seems to have landed the family in that situation but no clear reason or motive surfaces. The young men make some references towards their reasons, say as Peter, the more in control smooth talker type, says that Paul after having a disturbed childhood, involving incest turned into a psychopath and as he tell that he starts crying but soon to start laughing. Later he gives passing reference to void and emptiness in ther lives, all too with a conscious mocking air. Haneke keeps on teasing the viewer to all ends. As the husband says, ‘why are you doing this? Why don’t you kill us’ and Paul Replies, ‘for entertainment, what else’. The scenes of brutality or direct violence are not shown but rather their after effect but that too always from a distance, denying the viewer even any chance of sympathising or empathising with the victims. Not that it’s the intention to close all channels but to deny user of the conventional identification with the character and thereby altering the emotional response and optimistically to invite the user to take a reflective, critical view of the things.
I did had an idea what the central motif was about so may be more than experiencing all these emotions I was rather concerned about how he will do it. There arises another question about whether the audience is self-critical enough to raise these questions afterwards. Imagine one being confused, irritated and shocked but this will be somewhere in the beginning but later a sort of emotional distancing would have formed. May be it’s the intention on the director’s part as he keeps on asking questions as Peter and Paul keep on addressing the audience.