Magazine article New Internationalist

[Funny Games]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Funny Games]

Article excerpt

This film sets out to stoke controversy. The first Austrian movie to show at Cannes for 35 years, and the third in director Michael Haneke's trilogy about the media and violence, it's a sparse, elegant, psychological thriller in which two killers shatter the well-oiled life of a middle class couple for no explained motive. Yet Funny Games is no standard thriller. It's a knowing, only partly ironic exercise in provoking its audience to query the part they play in consuming and perpetuating screen violence.

The first intimation of traumas ahead comes in the pre-title sequence as Anne (Susanne Lothar) and Georg (Ulrich Muhe) and their young son Georgie (Stephan Clapczynski) drive alongside a mountain lake to their holiday home, the strains of Mozart piping decorously through the car stereo. As they test each other's knowledge of opera, a sudden thrash of metal music warns the audience of the family's impending disaster.

It arrives in the shape of two preppy looking, white-clad young men, apparently guests of their neighbours. One of them, Peter (Frank Giering), appears unexpectedly in the family's immaculate kitchen, asking Anne to lend her neighbour some eggs. She is at first discomfited by his extreme politeness and then thoroughly unnerved by the menacing intent behind it. But he is soon joined by Paul (Arno Frisch), thinner, cleverer, more malevolent, and just as chillingly polite. Before long, Paul has struck and disabled Georg's leg with a golf club, entrapped the family, and embarked on the first of his sadistic little games, culminating, he warns them, in death within 12 hours. …

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