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Film / Funny Games

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Ann: Why don't you just kill us?
Peter: You shouldn't forget the importance of entertainment.

Funny Games is a 1997 Austrian satirical psychological thriller film written and directed by Michael Haneke. The film was additionally given an American Shot for Shot Remake in 2007, also written and directed by Haneke and featuring an English-speaking cast led by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Considering Haneke wanted to make a film in America but had to make the original in Austria for practical reasons, the remake is in a way closer to his true artistic vision for the film.

Both films center on a yuppie family arriving at their lakeside vacation house. Pulling into their driveway, they see their neighbor has some new guests: two clean-cut, polite young men dressed in white who look like they've just walked off a golf course.

The men soon arrive on the family's doorstep making a number of requests and imposing on their hospitality. Eventually, the family tires of them and asks them to leave, but they ignore the requests. After the husband slaps one of the men, they break his leg with his own golf club and take the family hostage.

It soon becomes clear that the two men are psychopaths, though they maintain a nonchalant and even friendly facade. They intend to spend the night torturing the family with a number of cruel games, holding a bet between themselves that no one in the family will be alive by 9:00 the next morning.

Although its surface-level premise is that of a home invasion movie promising violence and suffering aplenty, Funny Games is actually intended as a deconstruction of such films — and a giant middle finger to anyone who'd want to watch them in the first place. On a wider scale, the film also functions as a statement from Haneke on how violence is treated and portrayed by the medianote , and how horrific normally glamorized scenes and story conventions are when presented in a realistic form.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Compare Susanne Lothar, who plays Ann in the original, with Naomi Watts in the remake.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The family is terrorized by two psychopaths that invade their home.
  • AM/FM Characterization: The family listens to opera music in their car which establishes them as cultured and upper class as they drive to their lakeside vacation home. Meanwhile, Peter and Paul listen to death metal.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: By the mother to the father before climbing out of the window to look for help.
  • Aside Glance:
    • Paul gives one of these to the camera just before Ann discovers where he's hidden the dog. It's the first time he breaks the fourth wall. He adds a wink in the original, but just stares in the remake.
    • He also gives another one to the camera at the very end of the film.
  • Audience Participation: When Paul makes his mortal bet with the family that they won't last until sunrise, he turns to the camera and suggests that the audience play along, then comments that you're probably siding with the family.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: To put it shortly, Peter and Paul ultimately win their bet.
  • Bantering Baddie Buddies: The central antagonists seem to function between themselves as a slightly more real, less comical version of this trope.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. In both versions, Ann gets visibly more worn-out-looking over the course of the film as a result of the abuse.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Peter and Paul although Paul is the one in charge.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Peter and Paul start off cordial and polite when they finally meet with the Farbers, but they eventually become more and more demanding until George slaps Paul, which leads to Peter kneecapping him.
  • Blown Across the Room: This happens to Peter when he is shot by Ann with the rifle.
  • Bookends: The title of the film is shown in red text at the beginning and end of the film, accompanied by the same metal song.
  • Bound and Gagged: This happens to the mother after she is picked up by the villains on the street and also during the boat ride from which she never returns .
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Poor Georgie couldn't hold it during the "Cat in the Bag" game and ended up peeing his pants.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Paul and Peter acknowledge that they are just torturing the family for fun.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Arno Frisch, who plays Paul in the Austrian version, previously starred as a young psychopath named Benny in Benny's Video, an earlier Haneke film.
    • Ulrich Mühe, who plays the father in the Austrian version, also starred in Benny's Video as the father of the titular character.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: The mother's cell phone is disabled after getting dropped in the sink, frying the battery, very much Truth in Television.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The film takes its time focusing on the driveway gate after the Farbers enter their vacation home.
    • The Farbers' golf club bags have an early appearance when the Farbers organize their things.
    • When preparing the food, Ann takes out a kitchen knife to divide the beef. Paul and Peter later use said knife as part of their game "The Loving Wife".
    • Subverted in the case of the knife in the sailboat. Early on, George and Georgie Jr. accidentally leave a knife aboard the boat. Later, Ann uses said knife to cut her bonds, but Paul and Peter quickly confiscate it.
    • While waiting for Paul, Peter turns on the television and uses a remote control to flick through the television channels. Paul later uses the same remote to undo Peter's death.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Two clean-cut young men wear white gloves, making them look a little like golfers. One of their next prospective victims asks about them, because they didn't take them off inside the house; Paul then claims he has eczema. Of course, they really wear them to hide their own fingerprints.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: A knife that's been left in the family's boat is later used by a tied-up Ann to try and free herself. Subverted, in that Paul and Peter see her, take the knife away, and throw it overboard. As well as Ann herself.
  • Cultural Translation: Played with. Haneke initially intended Funny Games to be an American film but was forced to make the original film in Austria. Despite this change, the Austrian version still featured many references to American pop culture. Eventually, the movie was remade as an American film, thus rendering the Shout-Outs to American culture much more appropriate.
  • Deadly Euphemism: How Paul reveals that he killed the dog:
    Paul: I had to test the club in another way.
  • Death of a Child:
    • Georgie finds the neighbor's daughter lying dead in the bathroom of her house.
    • In addition, Georgie is the first one to die.
  • Deceptively Silly Title: A film about two guys who decide to murder a family just because they can is far from funny.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype:
    • Paul is seemingly a Fair-Play Villain as he decides to give the Farbers a chance to win against Peter and him. However, Paul then demonstrates his Medium Awareness by speaking with the audience, acknowledging that his "fair play" is actually for the audience's sake as killing the Farbers immediately will result in a short movie. This is proven to be the case in the film's climax when Paul pulls out his Story-Breaker Power to win as the film is nearly over and Paul consequently feels no need to maintain the pretense of fairness.
    • Georgie's rage against the killers and escape from the house seemingly establishes him as a potential Kid Hero, but the fact that he is an inexperienced child going up against two psychopathic adults means that he is unable to meaningfully fight back.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Paul's ability to rewind time comes out of nowhere and allows him to prevent Ann from winning the game.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The duo gives various conflicting accounts of who they are and where they came from, but they're obviously all lies. They have no backstory and no reason to exist except to serve as villains for the movie you're so sadistically viewing.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Pete and Paul amuse themselves by playing "funny games" with their victims. In addition, Paul plays a game with the viewers by asking them whom they are betting on.
  • Downer Ending: All three family members and their dog are killed before 9:00, the villains win their bet, and the film ends with Paul asking another neighbor for eggs, restarting their "game".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Farbers' friends, who ride a sailboat to visit them, become Paul and Peter's next set of victims.
  • Euroshlock: It's not gory or pornographic, but its nihilistic tone and implicit condemnation of the audience make it seem suited to the genre.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The family's German Shepherd (Golden Retriever in the remake) barks wholeheartedly at the villains. The clue remains unnoticed.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: The two killer are young and handsome boys in their 20s who don't even look menacing at first.
  • Fan Disservice: Seeing Naomi Watts in bra and panties is usually a good view for the male audience. But while she's tied up to be tortured? Maybe not so much.
  • Fat and Skinny: Peter and Paul respectively in the original, though Peter is more along the lines of Hollywood Pudgy. It is averted in the remake although Paul still calls Peter "Tubby" as an insult.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Both Peter and Paul make a big show of being very polite and considerate, which is all a part of their sadistic game.
  • Foreign Language Title: The Austrian film's title is Funny Games, in English.
  • For the Evulz: The killers give conflicting Freudian Excuses for their deeds, reducing it to simple, pointless evil.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After noting the Thompsons playing a game of golf with Paul and Peter, Georgie comments that Jenny, the Thompsons' daughter, is missing. Here, it is implied that Jenny was the first member of the Thompsons to die, and likewise, Georgie will die first too.
    • Peter points out that Paul's bet doesn't work because the family would lose either way.
    • Georgie's death not only averts Improbable Infant Survival, but it also means that Anyone Can Die.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Paul addresses the audience regularly and near the climax even rewinds part of the film itself.
  • Freudian Excuse: Subverted when the father asks his two tormentors why they are hurting his family. The villains poke fun at him, coming up with various reasons such as Peter becoming a queer and a criminal after his mother divorced his father or him having a poor upbringing due to coming from a family of drug addicts with his father as The Alcoholic. None of this was true as they immediately point out.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The film subverts the viewer's expectations for a Thriller and thanks to the attendant Deconstructor Fleet, thus continues to deliberately frustrate fans of similar genres.
    • The entire movie is a commentary on abuse as entertainment in general and the deconstruction lies in that it shows this abuse without glorification, without any emotional or moral justifications and without giving the audience the comfort of the dehumanizing effects of gorn and Nausea Fuel. The killers as Audience Surrogates are continually disappointed when the family does the more common sense action rather than ratcheting up the tension, and the real violence is only heard not seen. Likewise, when the killers threaten the mother into undressing, the camera focuses on her face rather than her nudity.
    • The film satirizes the Excuse Plot of thrillers and similar genres by having the killers attack the family after George refuses to lend Paul and Peter some eggs. The killers similarly do not have a real motive for torturing the family other than the fact that it is fun. This is then deconstructed after the killers leave the family alone to extend the running time to feature-film length: the story slows down because ultimately Paul and Peter are the ones instigating the plot and without them, there is no story.
    • The movie also deconstructs the standard home-invasion plot in several ways.
      • For one, the invaders get into the home through social engineering rather than brute force. The Farbers initially fall for the deception because Paul and Peter follow social norms at first and apologize for their more questionable behavior. By the time the Farbers figure Paul and Peter's true intentions, it's too late.
      • The protagonists of home-invasion stories usually have some kind of Home Field Advantage over the invaders, but there is no such luck here. The Farbers' home does have plenty of security, such as a gate with an electronic lock, and thus will be easy to fortify, but the Farbers never have the prep time to weaponize the house against Paul and Peter. For extra irony, the house's locked gate ends up impeding the family's escape attempts and helping the villains recapture the Farbers. On a similar note, when Georgie reaches the neighbor's house for refuge, the surveillance lights turn on, exposing his location to Paul.
    • The idea behind Paul's Fourth Wall Breaking is to deconstruct the audience's role in storytelling by pointing out how the stories in question manipulate the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief to entertain them. For example, Paul's bet with the audience and subsequent guess that the audience is on the family's side apply to every story with conflict: a first-time viewer will not know the outcome and will usually root for the more sympathetic protagonists to prevail. Paul's remote control rewind is the most blatant case of this as it undoes Ann's victory and confirms that Paul's bet with the Farbers was rigged to always end with Peter and him winning just as every story is rigged to end in a certain way depending on the writers' whims.
    • The whole point of subverting the Final Girl was to trick the audience to fall for an old horror cliché: "the final female survivor kills the villains." The movie initially sets up the knife dropped by George and Georgie Jr. as a convenient Chekhov's Gun for Ann, only to disregard it as a useless Red Herring by the end. The knife's real purpose was to keep the viewers hopeful for a Surprisingly Happy Ending even though Paul just demonstrated that the Farbers have no shot at winning.
  • Genre Savvy: Paul knows that he's in a film and tracks his deeds based on common plot structure.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Zigzagged. The murders of the entire family fall under this with the deaths of the dog, Georgie Jr., and George falling under Sound-Only Death. However, this is averted with Peter's death, which is the only death shown on screen.
  • Hate Sink: Peter and Paul have no redeeming qualities and are Flat Characters whose only desire is to kill people For the Evulz.
  • Here We Go Again!: The bulk of the film is neither the first nor last time these killers will play their game. They appear with the neighbors early on and at the end of the film, they start the whole thing over again with some other neighbors.
  • Hope Spot: The entire movie is filled with situations where the viewer feels hopeful for the victims like something would turn in their favor, and each time that door is slammed shut.
    • First, the family's friends visit the family in a boat but bummer, an old man and his two female partners pose no threat to the villains.
    • While Paul goes outside to chase Georgie, George and Ann try to persuade Peter, Paul's lackey, to let them go. None of their pleading affects Peter.
    • The son gets hold of a rifle and shoots at Paul. Too bad it wasn't loaded.
    • The killers suddenly leave, giving the husband and wife some glimmer of hope that they'll survive. Paul later lampshades that this was necessary for traditional plot structure.
    • The cellphone comes back to life, giving the survivors hope of rescue. But no, the Distress Call amounts to nothing.
    • The wife manages to grab the killers' gun and shoot one of them. It looks like the other killer loses his mind when he tries to undo the event with a remote control, but it actually works. The scene rewinds and this time the killers hang onto the gun.
    • When the wife is tied up in the boat and they are about to push her into the lake, she spots the knife her son had left there earlier. However, one of the killers notices it too and grabs it before she has a chance to cut herself loose.
  • Improvised Weapon: The villains arrive unarmed but find a golf club to be of great use against the father.
  • Ironic Name: Paul and Peter are named after two Christian saints. They are anything but saintly and at one point, Paul forces Ann to pray to God as part of a cruel game.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: The son directs a rifle at Paul and pulls the trigger. Nothing happens. Turns out the weapon wasn't loaded.
  • Jump Scare: The movie begins with the family playing a game that involves listening to classical music. Shortly before the title credits begin appearing, the movie suddenly starts to play obnoxiously loud metal music.
  • Karma Houdini: The two killers receive no comeuppance. In the end, the dominant killer even smirks triumphantly at the camera as he prepares to kill again.
  • Killed Offscreen: This gradually happens to the Farbers' neighbors, the Thompsons, in the background. In their debut, Fred and Eve are first seen playing a game with Paul and Peter in the front yard. Fred then reappears to introduce Paul to the Farbers, but Eve is nowhere in sight. Later, after Georgie escapes to the Thompsons' house, Fred and Eve are notably absent, and Georgie finds the corpse of Jenny, the Thompsons' daughter.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • While Peter isn't aware of the Fourth Wall like Paul is, he makes comments that make sense both from an In-Universe perspective and a meta perspective.
      Peter: If you think about it, all of this just for a carton of eggs.
    • A tagline for the remake was "You must admit, you brought this on yourself." While this functions as a message from Paul and Peter to the family they terrorize, it can also be interpreted as a sardonic message to the American audiences the remake was released to, as they had contributed in making films that gleefully depict the sadistic torture of innocents into the horror craze of the time, and as such were "due" for a film that works deliberately to not give such an audience what they want.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The film is full of scenes like this, most notably immediately after Paul and Peter kill Georgie.
  • Left the Background Music On: Both versions begin with a helicopter shot of a car driving through a country road set to classical music. Then voice-overs of the family in the car begin discussing the music, revealing that it's playing from the car stereo.
    • Zig-Zagged soon after, when Peter and Paul's death metal leitmotif comes on to announce the title cards, but the family continues to casually talk over it, indicating they don't hear it.
  • Light Is Not Good: The villains are dressed all in white.
  • May I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?: The two men first come over to borrow some eggs.
  • Meaningful Echo: After Ann successfully completes the killers' challenge of reciting a prayer, Paul tells her "Okay, that was the test run", essentially letting slip that he isn't interested in playing fair. Later, after Ann kills Peter, Paul rewinds the movie back to the point where he says "Okay, that was the test run".
  • Moving the Goalposts: Paul enjoys doing this to the mother. First, he only wants her to recite a prayer. Then he demands her to pronounce it in a more affectionate way. Next, he wants her to kneel while saying the prayer. Lastly, she is supposed to recite the prayer back to front.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Paul tells a few different stories about his and Peter's background and motivations, none of which are likely to be true.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Ann displays a spontaneous burst of badassery when she snatches a gun and shoots Peter to kingdom come, but this doesn't stop Paul from rewinding time to undo it. Likewise, Ann's attempt to free herself with the knife ends in an anticlimax when Paul and Peter notice and throw away the knife.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Downplayed. The trailer for the American remake makes the film look a bit more like a black comedy than a straight-up horror film.
  • No Fourth Wall: Paul is completely aware that he's in a film. He smirks at the camera several times and makes snide comments to the audience about what they expect will happen. He also makes several comments that the killers' timing and sequence of actions are based on traditional plot structure.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The excruciatingly suspenseful scene where Georgie is being hunted down by Paul in the neighbors' house, where everything is dark and deathly silent and you know that Georgie might be caught at any moment.
  • "Oh, Crap!" Fakeout: When Peter and Paul pull their Freudian Excuse prank on the father.
  • The Oner: Shortly after the gun goes off, there is a ten-minute long take in which very little happens, but the full horror of the scene can be soaked in.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Tim Roth slides between his natural English accent (as in Pulp Fiction) and his much more nasal, higher-pitched American accent (as in Reservoir Dogs).
  • Raincoat of Horror: Worn by the two villains in the final scene on the boat.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The lack of scare sounds is just one more convention of the horror genre that Haneke breaks with. Heavy metal is played in-universe at one point to heighten the tension.
  • Red Herring:
    • The knife on the boat ends up being one as it does nothing to help Ann.
    • The Farbers' neighbors make their first appearance after Paul and Peter hold the Farbers hostage with the neighbors agreeing to Ann's proposal that the Farbers will visit them later. Conservation of Detail suggests that they will play a role in helping the Farbers escape, but they don't appear again until the very end of the film when Paul and Peter have already killed off the Farbers.
    • Peter is constantly berated by Paul, which leads to arguments between the two. The film seemingly sets up for Peter attacking Paul out of frustration, but it never occurs.
  • Rewind Gag: Paul uses a remote control at one point to rewind the scene like a videotape when things didn't turn out the way they planned.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • The husband is forced to decide between the wife taking off her clothes or Paul inflicting pain on the son.
    • The wife is forced to decide if the villains kill her husband quickly by gunshot or slowly by knife, which is also a Morton's Fork.
  • Sarcastic Title: There is nothing funny about this movie whatsoever.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Not only do all the sympathetic characters die, but this is neither the first nor last time that this exact scenario has played out for the killers. What's more, the rewind trick suggests that the chances of any future targets to survive are next to zero.
  • Shot for Shot Remake: The American remake, by the same director, is almost exactly the same, but English speaking actors are used instead of German and Austrian actors.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Sociopath: The two boys decide to torture families as a pastime.
  • Sound-Only Death:
    • The dog utters a death-cry when Paul hits it with the golf club.
    • When Georgie is killed, it happens in the next room while Paul makes food, and the audience only hears the sound of the rifle going off.
    • Same goes for the father in that the audience only hears the gunshot that kills him.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The movie starts with a happy family driving through a beautiful country road and listening to opera. When the credits begin, the soundtrack suddenly switches to a shockingly discordant and abrasive song with grinding guitars, piercing trumpets, and meaningless screeching.
  • The Spook: The origins (and real names) of Peter and Paul remain unknown throughout the film, and they are complete strangers to all of their victims.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Not only can Paul Break the Fourth Wall to speak to the audience, he also can Save Scum when things don't go in his favor, meaning that the Farbers never had a chance of winning. Paul is aware that it ruins the story for the audience, which is why he only uses it near the end of the movie.
  • Stress Vomit: The mother vomits after looking back in on the room where her son's corpse is lying. This happens several minutes after The Oner where she struggles to get on her feet while it lies next to her..
  • Stunned Silence: After Georgie is killed, the parents sit motionlessly and in silence for over a minute.
  • Subterfuge Judo: Paul and Peter first begin their games by exploiting their victims' etiquette and trying their victims' patience. Peter knocks Ann's phone into the water and continually asks Ann for more eggs after "accidentally" dropping them multiple times while Paul borrows the family's golf clubs to test out their quality. Ann at first complies with their requests in hopes that they will immediately leave afterwards, but she eventually realizes that they have some ulterior motive and quickly drops the politeness as she firmly tells them to leave.
  • Take That, Audience!: A number of events in the film are this, including the rewind scene, in which the audience is given what it wants and then cruelly undone.
  • These Gloves Are Made for Killin': Peter and Paul wear white gloves as they torture and kill at least two families.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Paul and Peter look like perfectly normal and innocent young men. No one could imagine what kind of vicious, twisted killers they are.
  • Title Drop: By Peter, early on...only in the singular form.
  • Unbuilt Trope: This 1997 Austrian thriller is a critique of violent media and goes out of its way to portray violence as disturbing. Notably, the movie keeps most of the gore and violence offscreen and focuses more on the victims' psychological trauma from said violence. At one point, Paul even breaks the fourth wall to ask the audience if they are satisfied with the torment inflicted on the family. The 2007 American version is a Shot for Shot Remake with minor differences from the 1997 original, but it had a new genre to deconstruct in the mid-2000s when Torture Porn movies were the new zeitgeist in the horror genre.
  • Undignified Death: The ultimate humiliation for the mother is how she dies. Her son gets shot and her husband gets stabbed, but she gets bound and gagged and taken for a boat ride. After Peter and Paul have been sailing for some time with her sitting between them, they just shove her off the back of the boat and sail on without looking back.
  • Universal Remote Control: Invoked. While Paul does use a remote control to rewind the movie, said remote control is actually normal since it originally belonged to the Farbers and Peter used it earlier to watch TV.
  • Villain in a White Suit: A variation. In both versions, Peter and Paul wear preppy all-white sportswear, with polo shirts and shorts.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Paul insults Peter every chance he gets but is clearly devastated when Peter is blown away, which, sadly, doesn't last very long.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: When Ann asks Peter why he and Paul don't just kill the Farbers, Peter simply answers that it is more fun for the two of them to torture the family. Of course, Paul is well aware of the Doylist reason for keeping the family alive.
  • The Worf Effect: Georg(e) - the father in both versions - gets kneecapped by a golf club first, which means that he's in excruciating pain and barely mobile for the rest of the movie.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Both Peter and Paul are willing to manhandle the mother if necessary.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The killers don't mind murdering entire families, children included.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Paul is under the impression that he is in a traditional thriller, but given that he Breaks the Fourth Wall to address the audience and even subverts the rules to win, his presence makes the entire movie incredibly unconventional. Unlike most examples of this trope, this does not make him any less competent as a villain.
  • You Bastard!: Played with, Paul never condemns the audience for watching the film, but he does acknowledge that everything he does is for the viewers' entertainment.


Video Example(s):


The Remote Control

After his partner Peter is killed by his soon to be victim, Paul suddenly pulls a remote out of nowhere and rewinds everything so that Peter was never killed and the gun is never taken.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiabolusExMachina

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