Monday, March 17, 2008

Funny Games: Haneke a Puritan?

One film I don't think I'll be able to bring myself to see is Michael Haneke's new English language remake of his gruesome European original FUNNY GAMES. But I'm almost tempted - almost - after reading this excerpt from a Gabriel McKee article, posted by Peter Chattaway;

The real reason it makes so much sense for Haneke to remake this film, then, is that its attitude toward sin is so thoroughly Puritan. The film essentially adapts Matthew 5:28 to a different sin: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Jesus states. Haneke is basically saying: “Anyone who watches Saw IV has already committed murder in his heart.” He makes the case for a direct link between watching torture porn and being complacent to real torture, if not actually committing it.

For a thoroughly progressive filmgoer who is nonetheless a big Dirty Harry fan, that can be a tough pill to swallow. But it’s not exactly a new argument: after all, the early Christian church objected to the theater as much as the gladiatorial arena. . . .
It’s difficult to look at a film like Funny Games in the traditional terms of a film review, or even a casual discussion. You can’t really like or dislike a movie like this; it doesn’t work that way. In that regard, it’s similar to another recent film that is both about the depiction of violence and an example of it, a film that similarly seeks to make its audience complicit in the brutality onscreen: Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. As with Gibson’s film, there are those who will hate Funny Games, but that’s generally because they’re looking at it as a movie among other movies. Ebert is onto something when he states that “this isn’t a movie, it’s a thesis,” but by that token it’s difficult to discuss in the terms of a movie review. Its goals and its methods are entirely elsewhere. But it’s not exactly a thesis—it’s a sermon. Haneke admonishes us to hate sin; unfortunately for him it’s a sin that most of us Dirty Harry fans aren’t willing to give up.

Gabriel McKee, Religion Dispatches, March 17

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