Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Saw Funny Games tonight at the MoMA; Michael Haneke answered questions after. I have the movie on DVD and had seen it before and admired it, but it's much more excruciating to watch it in a theater surrounded by people--the screaming seems to assault you, and so does that John Zorn music. (There were a number of walk-outs, including one guy who barked, "Garbage!" as he left.) One thing I love about it is how mercilessly it abuses an audience's presupposition that in a game there are options; there are possibilities; there are ways to avoid death. In this game, even when you are told, "You can live if you do this," there is no way you can live. And when you are told, "If only you hadn't done that, none of this would've happened to you," you are just being tormented. It was always going to happen to you, and there was no way you could win.
So it's a brilliantly constructed movie with much to admire about it but there are the What's the point? and Is this necessary? questions, which are, it seems to me, entirely reasonable. Cache is a better film--Haneke's best, I think--not as viscerally upsetting as Funny Games but more profound, with real, affectingly examined human pain and with an authentic sense of consequence (though not without Haneke's austere formal tricks). Funny Games is shallow. As Haneke said tonight, it's a parody of a thriller/horror film--and that's really all it is. It's not about violence in the real world. Brilliant and absolutely engrossing but shallow.