Saturday, April 14, 2018

Funny Games 1997

Spoiler Alert - This post is meant to enhance ones viewing of the movie but it does contain some sections that one may consider spoilers. If you want to be totally surprised by the movie, please do not read this until after viewing.

Michael Haneke's films take on the central question of our time, man's sense of alienation in modern society. In his 1997 film, Funny Games, he explores this theme in terms of modern media's exploitation of violence for the titillation of audiences.

Origins - Benny's Video.

The idea for the film started as a wider discussion in society about apparently random violence committed by young people from good, middle class families. These crimes are not committed for gain like revenge or money but for the thrill of it. This disturbing thought is what lies behind the film particularly in the fact that media generally treat violence in the same manner, as thrill kills.

The director expanded upon ideas originally contained in his film Benny's Video. It was an inside joke that a couple actors in Funny Games also had large roles in Benny's Video.

White Clown, Auguste Clown

The perpetrators of the violence in Funny Games are represented by the white clown and Auguste Clown archetypes. The white clown being the serious, wiser of the pair and the Auguste clown being the bumbler that is trying to follow along.

The clowns go by the names of several classic pairs or buddies in the film:
Peter and Paul - The father's of the Catholic Church
Beavis and Butthead
Tom and Jerry

Wikipeida - Clown

The white clown, or clown blanc from the original French, is a sophisticated character, as opposed to the clumsy auguste.[8] They are also distinguished as the "sad clown" (blanc) and "happy clown" (auguste).[9]

The Auguste face base makeup color is a variation of pink, red, or tan rather than white. Features are exaggerated in size, and are typically red and black in color. The mouth is thickly outlined with white (called the muzzle) as are the eyes. Appropriate to the character, the auguste can be dressed in either well-fitted garb or in a costume that does not fit — either oversize or too small is appropriate. Bold colors, large prints or patterns, and suspenders often characterize Auguste costumes.

The auguste character-type is often an anarchist, a joker, or a fool. He is clever and has much lower status than the whiteface. Classically the whiteface character instructs the auguste character to perform his bidding. The auguste has a hard time performing a given task, which leads to funny situations. Sometimes the auguste plays the role of an anarchist and purposefully has trouble following the whiteface's directions. Sometimes the auguste is confused or is foolish and makes errors less deliberately.

The Shock

These two clowns play by their own rules and do not respect the normal rules that hold society together. Normal people do not stand a chance against these characters and this is what gives the film its shock value. Anxiety is generated when normal people have to interact with characters who do not behave as one is supposed to in society. They cross the boundaries of trust and untouchability  and without those boundaries normal people are lost.

Hot or Cold

The film condemns the viewer as an accomplice to the violence, one who is also getting a thrill out of it. Films often present violence in a consumable way for the pleasure of the audience. Funny Games wants you to question violence as entertainment.

It first raises this specter when the white clown is playing a game of hot or cold with the wife. During this game the white clown unexpectedly turns and winks to the camera. This is designed to create a sense of irritation in the viewer and cause them to question whom is being winked at, when it is the viewer that is the target of  the wink.

Alienation  and Manipulation

Films let viewers vicariously get their thrills from gratuitous violence in guilt free as viewers not participants. Funny Games does not let the viewers off the hook as it makes them participants. It does this by breaking the cinematic illusion at several levels.

The top level is where the film is rewound after the wife gets control of the gun and kills one of the evil clown figures. This wife killing is acceptable to the viewer but this is rewound to allow an alternative ending, one that is not acceptable to the viewer.

There are other, lower levels, used to draw the viewer into this conspiracy like where the clown characters turn to speak to the audience.

These devices are meant  to show viewers how easily they are being manipulated by breaking the spell of the film.


Each time the director uses a device to break the film's spell with the audience; he is inviting them to "get it" and leave, to walk away. Films are seen as an escape from reality but this film actively invites the viewer to escape from the film. The director does not accept criticism against the film for its anti-social content because the film attempts to inform and cautions viewers to reject these views. If viewers do not accept these invitations to tune out, they have some need to seek such thrills.

Devices used to Grip The Viewer:

There are several devices that the director employs to entrance viewers:

Three Dimensional  Evil -  The clowns are not one dimensional. Plots are often written from a God perspective where the writer is God and the characters are flawed beings to be moved about like pawns. Funny Games seeks to portray everyone as fully functional human beings even the bad guys.

Confrontation of Genres - Another area that makes the films gripping is that it pits two genres against each other, a comedy and a tragedy. The two clowns are playing a classic comedic role while at the same time destroying a family, a tragic role.

Emotionally Drained - The family's suffering is not melodramatic by emotionally draining. Scenes were often filmed over a dozen takes to the point where the actors were physically exhausted and emotionally drained similar to how a true victim would be such as the wife in the prayer scene.

According to director Michael Haneke, star Susanne Lothar would often have to force herself to cry for nearly 20 minutes before her takes. He said the scene in which she is forced to pray required 28 takes and Lothar was tremendously drained by the ordeal. It was the weakened reaction that Haneke wanted from her for the scene. - IMDB Funny Games Trivia

Slap in the Face

The film is not simply intended to provoke the viewer but to awaken them. To make them question what they normally watch for entertainment, to question violence portrayed in media.

Fan Theories - Prequel to Purge Theory

Reddit Fan Theories - Funny Games as Prequel to The Purge

This theory came to me after a while of seeing Funny Games, which is probably the most fucked up thing I've ever saw. First, The Purge is justified because it brings peace and harmony to America all year long. This is the first similarity I saw with Funny Games. The sadistic young men in this movie appear rather calm and easygoing, even though what they do. What if this guys had a double life of being model sons of politicians and fucked up murderers? If this assumption is correct, maybe the guys of Funny Games are not the only ones practicing this kind of games. As a whole generation of wealthy children, they inherit their parents estatus into politics and make their way up to the top, having in their mind their twisted desires of turning their "sport" into a national holiday. Basically, these guys form part of a much larger group of young men that have the same desires. They access politics and instaure The Purge as their legacy.

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