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.
I would have loved to watch the original but nevertheless. Anyhow, check these good articles here and here. And a rather detailed profile and interview here.
My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.
– Michael Haneke
Watched Michael Haneke’s Caché (Hidden)this week. Its one of the best contemporary film that i got to watch in last some time. On the surface its a thriller talking about an affluent, self contained and peaceful looking family of three(George, Anne and son Pierrot) which one day starts receiving surveillance tapes of their front gate. These tapes then while later accompanying disturbing sketches lead way to a hidden past which is revealed as the movie progresses. The identity and the motives of the ppl/person behind the tapes is not revealed straightforward though a few clues are thrown about. The clues are themselves a test for audience’s involvement and concentration. Among the two clues i could only catch the 2nd one which lies in the last scene of the movie and had i been not told about that earlier i would have surely missed it too. But given that too we only come to know about the identity of the culprits or rather so called culprits.The motive and the psychology behind remains for the audience to unravel.
The movie moves in long shots taken most of the time from a distance as if the spectator is promoted to a bystander. The long shots with complete lack of background score not only provide an unassuming space but also a resistive restlessness, which mounts as the pace gets hindered, deliberately done so as to suppress the natural instinct of the audience to cling to any plot. Also many loose threads are spawned throughout the movie without any effort of bridging between them. As the movie progresses the tapes and the normal sequence shots threateningly start looking alike with only a background sound or fast forwarding sometimes distinguishing them. There are also two sudden yet short acts of violence which just leave the audience gasping.
The movie in its core moves with a political undertone about colonialism and political oppression. The hidden past pf George is symbolically linked to the colonial and racist history of France, with the 1961 police massacre of anti-colonial protesters featuring as a main point of the hidden past. Few scenes of riots and bombings shown in the backdrop, on the television, specifically add to underlying tone and tension. Also adding to all these are the riots that happened in France in the recent past.
The way George behaves as his past comes haunting him, his noncommittal attitude to take responsibility of it, his reluctance to confide with his wife and his refusal to hold the blame or any bad conscience all very sharply show the mindset of the present society. Haneke uses George’s childhood as the building block of the apparent racism as childhood is symbolic to the age of non reason as there is never a reason for racism which just happens. But the refusal of coming to terms to it and holding any responsibility even when one confronts it and that to in the educated bourgeois comes as one of the main themes of the movie. Several other threads and themes, one of Majid’s and his son’s acts, frailty of family relations with Pierrot sense of abandon and the weight of trust in George’s and Anne relation, from the part of the movie .
On the whole its a great movie with how it handles both its subject and the audience.
Here’s a good article about Haneke’s sense of cinema. Reading it am more than tempted to go for his other movies. Few more links(Here, here and here) through which i actually came to know about Haneke and went for the screening.