A couple and their son arrive at their holiday home at a picturesque lakeside locale but are soon interrupted by a stranger knocking at the door. What follows is a premeditated psychological and physical attack on the family.
Funny Games is not very funny at all. Michael Haneke, the Austrian writer/director has taken the thriller genre and turned it, not so much on its head, but inside out. The scenario is familiar, a family of three – father Georg (Ulrich Muhe), mother Anna (Susanne Lothar) and son Georgie (Stefan Clapczynski) going to their summer house for vacation. It's all very ordinary despite the fact that they're obviously well-off and cultured. And then into their house comes an intruder, Peter (Frank Giering) and his mate Paul (Arno Frisch). These two young men have a terrorist agenda and we, the audience are taken into their inexplicable mindset for a repulsive, mesmerising ride...
It forces you to examine your reactions to the film pretty carefully. You could go either way so easily.
This film divides people passionately. You either admire it – it's hard to love – or despise it. What Haneke does is so confronting, because the very familiarity of the genre builds expectations that are simply not met. Not only does he thwart us, he makes us squirm while he does it. We are invited into his sadistic world as co-conspirators – he has the audacity to make his young vicious perpetrators communicate with us as we're sitting there, a nod and a wink and we're with you boys. I guess you either walk out at that point or you stay and try to figure out what in fact Haneke is saying with this tremendously well-executed film. As he did with previous films like Benny's Video, Haneke walks a fine line between denouncing and exploiting violence in cinema. It forces you to examine your reactions to the film pretty carefully. You could go either way so easily.