Seeing Double: Funny Games

By Ashley

During my horror movie binge, I watched both Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, 2008) within a day of each other. I found both to be pretty good, if somewhat shallow. I feel like there are other movies that say the same things about brutality and violence in cinema and the audience’s participation in that violence in much more interesting, thought-provoking ways (hello, Martyrs) but I definitely appreciate Funny Games for what it is and find Haneke’s choice to make a meticulous, shot-by-shot American remake fascinating.

Since I watched them so close together I was able to point out most inconsistencies in dialogue, setting, and blocking between the two movies. I noticed some really interesting things, most of them really small, like changes in certain words (using “tubby” as opposed to “fatty”) or the different color palettes (FG ’97 has a tannish color scheme while ’08 FG’s is blue). But there is one major difference that is so jarring and obvious that I’m still frustrated and confused about it.

There’s a point in the Funny Games narrative where Paul and Peter force wife and mother Anna/Ann to strip. While she is stripping the camera stays on a close-up of her face; all we see during her disrobe is an uncomfortable, tear-stained face. The shot is all about depriving the audience of the pleasure of seeing her body. It’s about calling out the audience for taking any kind of pleasure in the sexualization of this woman’s torment. The next time we see her body in the original, she is clothed again. In the remake, however, it’s a totally different story.

Naomi Watts spends almost the entire rest of the movie in her bra and panties; Susanne Lothar in the original remains clothed save for one brief moment when she changes into jeans and a sweater. I just could not get over this. The whole point of the stripping scene is to deprive the viewer of the pleasure of seeing the female body, but in the ’08 version we get to see Watts writhing around half-naked anyway. I don’t understand why Haneke would undermine the subtext of the scene so completely. It could be that—since it’s an American remake—it’s an attempt to appeal to American sensibilities. But literally nothing else in this movie does that. This is a movie that, while in English and taking place in America, could not feel farther from an American movie.

So, I’m still pondering: What is Haneke trying to do with this particular change, the only major change in the remake? What say you, readers?

2 Comments

Filed under Cinema

2 responses to “Seeing Double: Funny Games

  1. I think Watts’ nudity is just the most visible point of Haneke’s rather pointed attack on Americans. He remade his film almost shot for shot but did it in English, as if to call Americans out on their cultural close-mindedness. Throwing in some tits seems the ultimate callous move to play to our insipid mass tastes.

    I’m still not sure how I feel about Funny Games but I’ve always felt that was Haneke’s mission with the remake.

  2. I would like to believe that it was an intentional dig at us silly Americans. I’m not entirely sure it is though…
    Like you, I was SUPER put off by it and it is the main reason I don’t enjoy the remake.

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