Film Scouts Reviews

"Funny Games"

by David Sterritt

"Funny Games" finds Austrian auteur Michael Haneke again chastising our materialistic society for breeding huge amounts of decadence, dehumanization, and spiritual death, especially among the bourgeoisie, which is too busy plugging away at its dubious pleasures to realize that its collective soul has been slaughtered and buried as definitively as the hapless thief in "The Well," the disappointing Samantha Lang movie that showed here the other day. Haneke's heroes are a middle-class family on vacation in their lakeside hideaway, where they are visited, tormented, and eventually killed by two men whose crisp young faces and hypocritically polite manners recall the Nazi thugs who ravaged Europe not so long ago. (A friend pointed out the Nazi critique to me in a conversation shortly after the screening; since then I've found that some other people see the movie itself as an echo of fascism--a provocative perspective, although I don't agree with it.) As in Haneke's earlier "Benny's Video" and (less directly) "The Seventh Continent," the target here is not only contemporary materialism and self-satisfaction, but also modern media--symbolized by a mobile phone that refuses to function dependably, and brought directly into the narrative by a few surprising moments (and one that's downright astonishing) when a character manipulates the action (and us in the audience) as a self-aware part of the fiction. In all, the movie is sadistic, insufferable, clever, and relentlessly compelling. See it if you dare.

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