Funny Games (1997) (BLU-RAY REVIEW)
DIRECTED BY: Michael Haneke
STARRING: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch
RATED: UR/REGION A/1:85/1080P/NUMBER OF DISCS 1
AVAILABLE FROM The Criterion Collection
Two seemingly well-educated young men, who call each other Paul and Peter among other names, approach a family on vacation. They are, apparently, friends of the neighbors, and, at the beginning, their true intentions are not known, but soon, the family is imprisoned and tortured in its own house violently, which the viewers are forced mostly to imagine and to share a certain complicity with the criminals. It might be some kind of game with the lives of husband, wife, son, and dog, but why are they doing it?
I’ve probably watched close to 5,000 movies in my lifetime, maybe more. I’ve reviewed 3,000 just since I’ve been running this site. So I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen A Serbian Film, I saw the more recent Trauma, and I’ve seen just about anything else that has been out and been trying way too hard to be disturbing. Out of everything I’ve seen the only two that really got to me was 2010’s Kidnapped and 1997’s Funny Games. Funny Games might take the cake not because it’s got the most violent or the most outrageous stuff, because it doesn’t. It just really hits you in the gut because it is a very mean spirited film. Two boys take a family hostage and then the family is helpless as they have one bad thing after another done to them. It all comes down to an ending that is very bleak and still very artistic in its own right. The tone and feel are something totally different. So different that not even the American remake of it about a decade later could match it. And it was more or less a sketch of this with English. There’s just something about Funny Games that punches you in the gut and I can understand why it is now joining the ranks of The Criterion Collection.
Of course, you wouldn’t feel anything about the film one way or another if the acting wasn’t strong enough to lock you in. You get caught up in this story as things progress from bad to worse for the characters. You feel bad for who you are supposed to feel bad for. You hate who you are supposed to hate. And all of that plays a big factor into the investment you make as you make your way through a film like Funny Games. You also can’t downplay the cinematography, as each shot in this one is a well crafted and thought out shot. These are on display in a high form more than once, especially in the film’s climax. You can be all about the blood and the gore in most movies and still feel bad from just an emotional level when it comes to what you see here in this one. The Criterion Collection brings this one to Blu-ray in a very nice package that comes with a clear and solid transfer with lots of nice detail and some very cool extras. If you ever want to try to teach someone edge of your seat tension and drama when it comes to movies, you should show them this one.
– New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Michael Haneke, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
– New interviews with Haneke and actor Arno Frisch
– New interview with film historian Alexander Horwath
– Press conference from the 1997 Cannes Film Festival featuring Haneke and actors Susanne Lothar and Ulrich Mühe
– New English subtitle translation
– PLUS: An essay by critic Bilge Ebiri
Quality of Transfer: 100%