“Funny Games” is the most unnecessary movie of the year

Funny Games 2008 (US)Directed by Michael Haneke(Celluloid Dreams)1 StarFunny Games 1997 (Austria)Directed by Michael Haneke(Celluloid Dreams)5 StarsI’m sort of at a loss. How do you write a review of a brand new movie that you saw eight years ago? How is it even possible to see a new movie that you already saw eight years ago? Here we have a shot-by-shot remake of one of the most disturbing films ever made. The original, ironically titled “Funny Games” released in Austria in 1997, was a scathing critique on Hollywood pop cinema, what its director, Michael Haneke, calls the “barel-down cinema” of easyily consumable answers. “Usually, in an action film, violence is depicted in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the audience. As an audience, you feel good about it,” Haneke said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Thus, Haneke strives against showing violence in an acceptable way because if violence is consumable, he believes we, the viewer, become complicit in that violence. The original film is a masterpiece. It is terrifying in its depiction of brutality, and few people have walked away from it without a strong emotional response. Haneke claims that he remade “Funny Games” because it, a film in German with English subtitles, was not reaching its intended audience: American viewers of Hollywood films. Interestingly, by Haneke’s own admission the original DVD is a hit in English-speaking countries. I rented it from Blockbuster and our school library has a copy that any student can rent for free. It is not a difficult film to attain. English-speakers are seeing the original. In an interview in 2005, Haneke actually expressed regret that the original film’s popularity proved that it was becoming consumable; that the intended shock was tapering by an evolving, media-hard?ened viewer-ship. Acknowledging this it’s apparent that Haneke fumbled by remaking “Funny Games.” The remake is not nearly as shocking as the original. The acting is admittedly superb but nowhere as fantastic as in the first. In the scene where Ann escapes, Naomi Watts’s face lacks the ineffably traumatic beauty that Susanne Lothar’s puffy eyes convey. Tim Roth’s weeping as George in the infamous 10-minute shot does not transmit the sheer humiliation of Ulrich Mühe’s portrayal. Though the film is an almost shot-by-shot recreation, the position of the camera differs from the first. Haneke pushes his camera closer to the characters in the remake, allowing viewers to see subtleties that they might not have seen in the original. But this does not work toward the film’s advantage. The distanced camera in the first scene creates an eerie atmosphere of uncertainty – one got the impression that even the camera didn’t want to see the interior horrors – whereas the remake’s camera feels warmer and reveals too much. The remake’s greatest slip-up comes in the 10-minute shot centerpiece. The original scene was so horrifying because of Anna’s lack of movement; she re?mains still for at least three minutes, allowing the audience to muse on the events they’ve just seen. The negative time and the non-movement of utter defeat, creates the environment of terror. The American film’s shot is shorter and includes too much movement; Watts doesn’t remain still long enough and the emotional resonance is lost. The remake is not without a few improvements. In the prayer scene Paul pulls Ann’s bound hands into a prayer position which is a frightening addition and the film’s dark humor is naturally better expressed in English to non-German speakers, but these slight differences do not justify an entire film. For film fans that don’t shy away from subtitled movies, remaking a film that was already so perfectly crafted seems a bit superfluous. Sure the original was great, but there aren’t enough differences in the recreation to warrant its existence, and I can’t help but feel that Haneke’s remake is presumptuous and even a little condescending. In a spotless film career, Haneke has created his first flop.