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Funny Games U.S.
Michael Haneke’s English-language remake of his earlier, Austrian film is both a shocking home-invasion thriller and a potent commentary on cinematic violence.
Michael Haneke joins the list of rare directors who've remade their own works by reshooting his acclaimed 1997 Austrian film in English, with a Hollywood cast. A cerebral yet shockingly violent home-invasion thriller, it stars Naomi Watts as a housewife confronted with a pair of nihilistic intruders, hell-bent on destroying her cultivated bourgeois existence.
As ever, Haneke isn't solely interested in the plot's surface dramatics, and Funny Games is intended to be a Brechtian, fourth-wall-breaking discourse on the morality of screen violence, prompting us to question our reactions to the onscreen carnage. But even as a disturbing thriller it is icily effective. Ostensibly funded with the motive of bringing the critically acclaimed Haneke to a wider audience, the director himself presumably also relished the idea of targeting the English-speaking mainstream with his ideas, seeing as it’s an audience theoretically more inured to the comic-book movie violence he’s attacking. But the film failed to break out beyond the arthouse and remains Haneke's only foray into English-language cinema. For the adventurous viewer, Funny Games remains an essential Haneke experience. The appearance of the ever-excellent Naomi Watts alongside Tim Roth, Michael Pitt and Bradley Corbett, arguably imbues the film with a stronger power than the original; seeing Hollywood stars like Watts perform such devastating material makes for unforgettable viewing.