Funny Games (2007) is the most disturbing movie I have ever seen. I mean that in half a good way. Unlike Stoker (2013) which is weird, but retains its connection with the rules of acceptable fiction, Funny Games eschews it all to get down to pure cruelty. I will never watch this movie again. Unless I watch something terrific and happy in the next five minutes, my entire day is wasted. Funny Games depresses me so deeply that my brain is going into over-drive trying to rid it from my memory. I’m sick to my stomach, I am so disgusted by this movie. But it’s so purely terrifying that it’s good. It’s not disgusting because it’s bloody or gross, it is grotesque, danse macabre kind of stuff. Unrelenting in style and in story. When someone dies, it’s almost a relief because writer/director Michael Haneke doesn’t show us the deaths. Effective, brutal, and I cannot recommend it to anyone.
A family drives to their vacation home, playing a fun game where they try to guess the composer of the music the other plays on the radio. George (Tim Roth), Ann (Naomi Watts), and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) are clearly a nice little family living a comfortable life. When they get in, they invite the neighbors over for dinner, but they’re despondent. The song of a business acquaintance, Paul (Michael Pitt) seems to make them uncomfortable. Later, Peter (Brady Corbet) comes over to borrow some eggs for the neighbors. Things are tense and eventually Ann asks them to leave, but they won’t. When George tells them to go, Paul is rude and George slaps him. That begins an evening of physical and mental torture at the hands of Paul, Peter, and Haneke.
I’ll keep this brief, as I have a deep sadness to ward off. The performances are exceptionally good. They’re so real, so sympathetic. Obviously, right? You can tell that I’m moved. The camera (Darius Khondji) just stands there and watches, as us, as these drawn-out moments of cruelty go by. I considered turning off the movie, but I was stunned, riveted to the spot. Even when things were relatively calm, the tension was palpable. The screenplay—and this is a remake of the 1997 film also by Haneke—is astounding in its ability to shape the cruelty. It isn’t just that things go badly, then keep going badly. They go badly, but Peter and Paul keep teasing me, making me believe that there’s a way to beat the game. They show me how terribly wrong I am time and time again. Relentless.
What could possibly allow a stronger-stomached viewer to watch this film is the breaking of the fourth wall which happens occasionally. Paul will look at you and tell you what you’re thinking. Once, something satisfying happens and then it is erased. That single moment almost brought me out of the deep funk I felt growing inside me. Almost, that is before I really understood its significance and then it just made things worse. Is that a recommendation? I’m not glad I saw it, but it was excellent. Such a great poster, too. Try it out for yourself. I don’t make the rules.