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Funny Games
cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Stefan Clapczynski, Arno Frisch, and Frank Giering

director: Michael Haneke

104 minutes (18) 1997
widescreen 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Anna (Susanne Lothar) and Georg (Ulrich Mühe) and their son Schorschi (Stefan Clapczynski) are on holiday in a lakeside cottage. One day, two polite young men (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering) call by, and soon subject the family to a night of terrorisation.

At times, Funny Games is almost unwatchably distressing, but apart from one scene (which is shown to be a fantasy), Austrian director Michael Haneke does not show any of the violence in this film. Everything happens off-screen, and we see only the results. A scene that might have been simply titillating in other hands, when Anna is forced to strip, is shot from the shoulders upwards. Haneke has described his film as a response to violence as entertainment, such as in Reservoir Dogs, which he sees as pornographic. He also has said that if you don't need this film as a cure, you will probably walk out halfway through. Such scenes as the one where Paul winks complicitly at the camera are meant to ask us: why are you watching this?

There's a distinct sense of having one's cake and eating it behind all this. I also don't agree that Reservoir Dogs glamorised violence as much as some of its many inferior imitators - for example, Killing Zoe, a film so tedious that you long for some graphic violence to liven it up. Whatever doubts you may have about the film's intent and message, Haneke's skill as a filmmaker is not in doubt, aided by a horribly realistic portrait of suffering from Susanne Lothar. As a result, Funny Games is very hard to shake off.

Digitally re-mastered DVD (anamorphic presentation with Dolby digital 2.0 German soundtrack and English subtitles) plus special edition extras: theatrical trailer, director interview, and film notes by Jonathan Romney.

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