Is Funny Games a good film? I’m not sure. It is, undeniably, interesting, and that’s almost as important as “good.”
Director Michael Haneke set out to challenge audience reactions to stylised violence and suggest the viewer’s complicity. The film is a provocation, an unsubtle attack on its own audience. I don’t know that Haneke is successful at fulfilling his stated goals. It is effective at establishing a chilling, uneasy suspense in early scenes, which resonate with the uncomfortable, nervous anticipation of violence. Meanwhile the violence itself is deliberately unentertaining, providing neither satisfaction nor relief.
Funny Games serves as Rorschach test for its audience; it asks why we watch films full of maliciousness and misery, and your reaction will depend on your reasons. I watch them because they push the human experience to its limits, with the corresponding emotional impact: who hasn’t reflected on how they’d act in similarly horrible circumstances? I like to think that I would have the self-assurance and competence to survive such a crisis… but I fear, in reality, I would resemble the protagonists of Funny Games: rendered inept with shock, meeting a terrible fate with little resistance. No entertainment, no last-minute redemption …just horrifying, meaningless suffering.