Michael Haneke in ‘Funny Games’ plays with the image of ‘tame’, pure, meaningless violence. Impeccability of space, in which a series of acts of brutality take place, increases the feeling of fear. Torturers are using the script of crime, which is not a disposable plan, but rather a scenario of a renewable ritual. However, we are dealing with the rituality that is deprived from magic and performative (aiming to change reality). The director wants to symbolically present evil as an irrational, self-renewable, force. He tries to shelling of its essence and do the same with pain and violence.
Pretty happy family spends vacation on the lake. Peaceful, relaxing moments are interrupted by a visit of two oddly-behaving young men, who put our vacationers in a violent game. The world of ‘Funny Games’ is divided into murders and those who will be murdered. This distinction refers to the original order of nature (eating – being eaten), which should make you look at this movie as it was a great metaphor. Haneke seems to practice critical directing. Synecdoche is its formal and poetic determinant. The lake house turns out to be both: micro- and macro-cosmos. The arrival of evil is not presented as a invasion or intrusion, but rather as an emergence. It comes from the middle of the reality in which victims live. It comes in the mask of familiar.
Although Paul and Peter embody the idea of monsters, they are surprisingly human (they don’t derived from supernatural or animal order). Their monstrosity is revealed at the behavioral level, not in their appearances. They seem to embodiment Sartre’s thought: hell is other people. Haneke chose aesthetics without aesthetisation.
The director plays with the tradition of composing the dramaturgy of the movie of drastic, brutal images. He constantly exposes the illusory of the action. ‘Funny Games’ is a fictional story that was framed with the skeleton of a documentary movie (no dramatic slow motion, no music, no brutalisation and no characterization). Only permanent lack of registration of moments of death. Haneke takes the show away from us, because he doesn’t want to confront us with a tame image of cruelty but with the awareness of its presence. Sometimes we observe violence that is only imaginary – part of the action is transferred to the specific theatrum mentis. It’s a very inspiring way of restoring its reality (visions and hallucinations always show up ‘here and now’).
In addition to the narrative and imaginary horror Haneke introduces monstrosity of the medium itself. A lengthy sequence that shows a dirty with blood TV is an artistic commentary on society which delights in watching staging of tragedies (television as tool for mediation and transmission of pictures of suffering is marked by the blood; it’s mockery of the myth of the innocent eye. The title ‘funny game’ seems to be an allusion to the needs and pleasures of the post-modern ‘homo ludens’, Haneke’s minimalism restores the power of the ‘bad’ picture.