One film, two versions: Funny Games

In 1997, I watched a disturbing European thriller, called ‘Funny Games’. Made by Austrian film maker Michael Haneke, (director of ‘Cache’, ‘Amour’, ‘Benny’s Video’ and ‘The White Ribbon’) it came with his reputation for making uncomfortable films, and some dire warnings from critical reviews too. Nonetheless, I wanted to see it, so I did. It stars the late Ulrich Muhe, who later gave such a superb performance in ‘The Lives Of Others’.

The story starts with a typical well-off family; wife, husband, young son, and family dog arriving at a lakeside holiday home. They meet their next door neighbour, who is accompanied by two smart and respectful young men. Later, the two young men arrive at the holidaymakers’ house, asking to borrow some eggs. But their behaviour is unsettling to the lady, especially when they contrive to break the telephone, insisting it was an accident. When they refuse to leave, she asks her mild-mannered husband to make them get out. But they break his leg, using one of his golf clubs. One of the young men constantly breaks the cinematic ‘fourth wall’, by looking at the audience and asking them questions. It is an unsettling ‘trick’ indeed, that involves us in the events playing out before our eyes.

The film then turns increasingly nasty. The men hold the family hostage, revealing that they have killed the family dog, Rolfi. They want them to participate in cruel ‘games’, and bet them that they won’t be alive by 9 am the following day. With no spoilers, all I can say is that things do not end well, as you might have already imagined. As a viewer, I was left wondering what the film was trying to say, if anything, though I later read that Haneke considered it to be an attack on media tolerance of our violent society. It is a well-made and thought-provoking film, but one that leaves you worried that you watched it at all.

Ten years later, Haneke remade the film himself. He used the same house as the set, and replicated the original film scene-by-scene, with no detail or script changes. But this time it was set in America, starred British actor Tim Roth as the unfortunate father, and Naomi Watts as his wife. I was intrigued. I mean, why bother? The same film, same sets, no changes other than location, actors, and choice of language. So I went to see it. As promised, it was identical, though more familiarity with some cast members, and the absence of the original’s German language, lost this remake the chilling European feel of the 1997 film. I would have to ask Haneke why he bothered, I know.
But I don’t have his number.

35 thoughts on “One film, two versions: Funny Games

    1. The fact that such things happen all too frequently is the only ‘saving grace’ of this rather unpleasant film. We just have to decide if we need to see that, and I thought I did.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post πŸ™‚ I actually love both version, but I will say that the original 1997 film still tops it. Their is just something unique about the 1997 film that I can not put my finger on. I did a blog post regarding my favorite films of director Michael Haneke months ago and here is the link below and keep up the great work as always πŸ™‚

    https://cinematiccoffee.com/2018/04/24/my-favorite-michael-haneke-films/

    P.S. I have another idea for your “One film two versions” series: Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective. Which version: the 1987 British miniseries or the 2003 American version? πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The US film of Pennies From Heaven was a travesty of the wonderful TV series. It should never have been made.
      You must be one of the few people (other than me) who manged to ‘endure’ both versions of Funny Games. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the link, John.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I like everything Potter did for the BBC. I think he is one of the greatest writers/dramatists this country has ever seen. (Along with Stephen Poliakoff) Michael Gambon was superb in the lead, and the flashbacks to his youth were memorable too. It also boasted a wonderful cast, as did ‘Pennies’ and most other productions of his, like Lipstick On your Collar, and Blue Remembered Hills.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me a bit of the Japanese director from the Grudge, Takashi Shimizu who also remade his own film as an American version. One really has to wonder indeed, why bother…but I guess money usually is the answer to that question. That…or a severe case of amnesia πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
    I haven’t yet seen this one. But I do own (the original) one on dvd. Just a simple case of finding some time 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As I have a three week vacation coming in September I plan on finally watching some stuff that has been on my to read list for ages. So if I will watch this one during that time, I will let you know my thoughts for it. Thanks for the warning though 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a hard time with intentional evil in anything. Any film that kills, maims or shows any cruelty or malice toward any animal (especially dogs) I cannot see. But thanks. You really write excellent reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hated this film, and chose not to bother with the remake – not that I can’t handle uncomfortable and unsettling material, it was just so evil for the sake of evil that i found it impossible to watch

    Liked by 1 person

            1. Come on, Fraggle, there are nasty people everywhere…..we produced Myra Hindley and Ian BradΕ·, Fred West; the Russians gave the world Stalin and Cambodia had Pol Pot….

              Liked by 1 person

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