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FUNNY GAMES

Austria, 1997 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Michael Haneke

The first Austrian film to be invited to Cannes in 35 years, Michael Haneke's Funny Games caused an incredible reaction at initial screenings. Outraged journalists spread descriptions that evoked a moving sculpture of remorselessness, an icy pinnacle of violence inspired by the media. They reasoned that only a pathological, perverse type was able to put such a lusty form of violence on the screen so perfectly, and ignored Haneke's moral motives.

Michael Haneke's films deal with coldness, lack of communication and the ever increasing levels ol violence in today's society. Funny Games is a chilling psychological thriller about an innocent family on vacation who have their lakeside idyll shattered by random brutality. Mundane travelling games, greeting the neighbours who stop by to borrow some eggs; the everyday provides a brief prelude to terror when an unwanted guest wagers the family that their lives will be over within 12 hours, before taking them prisoner.

The casual manner in which both psychological and physical torture are utilised and the sadistic nature of the family's assailants will unnerve some viewers but Haneke is holding a mirror up to society. The director goads us into dissecting similar incidents in genre films that we are asked to accept as entertainment that is no more threatening than a carnival ride.

"What I present to the audience naturally makes them nervous. I think this means of offering provocation ls vitally important. Questions have to be asked." - Michael Haneke

Born in 1942 in Munich, Michael Haneke studied philosophy, psychology and theatre in Vienna. He commenced working as a scriptwriter for German television in 1967 and has also worked extensively in theatre in both Austria and Germany. Working freelance as a television director and writer, Haneke has helmed a dozen films since 1974, these include: The Seventh Continent (1989), Benny's Video (1992), 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994) and The Castle (1996).

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