(Funny Games opens in theaters this weekend; below is Cinematical's Review from the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.)
Michael Haneke's remake of his own Funny Games is a great movie. It's also a great film. It's also a great piece of commentary on film. It's hard to say which Funny Games stirs up more -- your guts, or your brain. There's a line about how the film criticism of Manny Farber "played both brows against the middle." Funny Games smashes lowbrow violent entertainment and highbrow thoughts about violent entertainment into each other, hard, over and over again until the resulting wreck of bone and flesh and blood glistens like a sharp-edged gem. It gives you what you want and asks why you want it in the first place, and it does both those things superbly. It is cruel, cold and darkly thrilling.
The Farber family (played by Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Devon Gearhart) are getting away from it all to their lakeside vacation home. They're going to relax, meet friends, play golf and enjoy good food and good music. But they're not going to get to do any of those things. Two polite young men (played by Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt) drop by; they're guests of the neighbors, and the neighbors sent them over to borrow four eggs. Watts is glad to help. But the eggs break, and they'd like to borrow another four. Watts is less glad to help, but still polite. And then second set of four eggs are broken, and then it's not about the eggs at all, and politeness becomes irrelevant. Which, really, it is in the first place. Soon the Farber family is bound and frightened and hurt, and the two young men stay cool and courteous and curious, proposing games and posing probing questions. Roth chokes out a simple question: "Why are you doing this?" Pitt's answer is simpler: "Why not?" Pitt spools off a long series of complex and contradictory rationalizations for his associate's part in events that are rapidly going out-of-control for the Farbers, closing by noting that " ... he's jaded and disgusted by the emptiness of existence. It's hard." None of it is true, and what would it matter if it were?