Friday, July 3, 2009

The post in which I rant about Michael Haneke and Funny Games.

I had joked that Michael Haneke seems to be making the same film over and over again. Always gratuitous violence, always a statement about the young, always a statement about voyeurism, always a statement about film's ability to override our rationality with the comfort of its distance. People who knew who/what I was talking about agreed, to some extent.

And, last night, I watched his English remake of Funny Games. A film he originally directed in German 10 years ago. The film is a shot by shot, word for word remake of the original, but it's in English, and it stars Naomi Watts.

Firstly, I would like to say that he tricked me into watching the same film again, quite literally. I even knew that going in, but I still watched it anyway. Secondly, I find it fascinating that he found this particular film so important that he decided to remake it for the distinctly American audience. Thirdly, I'm confused and perturbed by how easily I identified with the characters once the film was showcasing Americans rather than Germans.

Strangely, though, the most bizarre aspect of the original, being that the main harasser of the family speaks directly to the audience and essentially turns them to accomplices as a result, is lacking in this version. I feel that this is mainly because of the contrast between the acting styles of Arno Frisch and Michael Pitt. Frisch was deliberate with his acting-playing on the tension and silence above all and presenting the coldness of the character throughout. Pitt, on the other hand, acts like the boy next door the entire time, even in the most brutal scenes. Maybe it's because I'm desensitized to it all (because I'd already seen it), but I feel like he only made the character slightly likable, if anything, as all of his characters seem to be. Furthermore, when Frisch addressed the camera, it was difficult to miss it. Pitt's words to and acknowledgement of the audience was rushed in comparison, as if he was constantly engaged in a casual conversation in a room full of people (the audience representing one of those people).

But, of course, Pitt does present us with a different character, even if it's the same dialogue and same set of actions. The softened character almost seems to present the viewer with the sense that Haneke is commenting on America's history of atrocities yet consistently charming demeanor. The Germans had their Holocaust, and we see them as hard people. I don't feel the need to explain America's nasty history of world relations here, but it's interesting to equate the character's charm with the evil nature of rhetoric (yeah, that's right, it's evil-Plato said so).

...meh, I've lost interest in this rant.

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