Not since Gus Van Sant remade Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho from the original shooting script has a thriller received so much attention for being a shot-for-shot remake. However, in the case of Funny Games, a film that depicts the systematic torment and torture of a family on vacation by two young men, things are a little different. The first difference is that director Michael Haneke remade his own German -language 1997 film for a mainstream American audience.
“The movie was originally made in German with German actors,” Haneke told Film School Rejects. “It never really reached the audience which it was intended. It was always intended for a larger, English-language, mainstream audience.”
Being able to cast major English-language actors gave Haneke a chance to give the film a higher profile. He felt his original German-language version was stuck in the art houses because it was a foreign film. In fact, Haneke feels that the film is more relevant than ever.
“The violent pornographic films are more and more in the horror [genre of American cinema],” Haneke said. “It makes the film more up-to-date than ten years ago. It emphasizes it.”
Haneke chose to make the film a shot-by-shot remake because he didn’t feel he had have anything to add. “If you do something the same and have nothing to add, you should do it shot-for-shot,” he said. “It was in a way, also a challenge for me because obviously it’s much more difficult to do a film shot-by-shot again.
Haneke refuses to label his film, preferring to leave that up to the critics and audiences. “I have no message,” Haneke explains. “My goal is to make the viewer reflect a little bit about the subject being shown in the film. If the viewer in this particular film ends up thinking a little bit about what he just saw, that’s message enough for me.”
To this end, Haneke wants to instill mistrust in the viewer, especially when watching such brutal stories. He said, “In the film, I’m trying to show the viewer how well he or she can be manipulated. I’m always trying to nurture a certain mistrust in the verity of cinema.”
It is for this reason that Haneke chooses to break the fourth wall and allow the film to become self-aware, as the antagonists speak to the audience on several occasions.
“Reality and acting and play, it all happens on different levels,” Haneke said. “It’s all a lie. Even the so-called reality is a lie. We are pretending that we are depicting the reality. But in reality, we are only approaching reality. We can never really reflect it exactly.”
On March 14, the English-language version of Funny Games, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, opens in limited release.