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Kino on Video presents
Funny Games (1997)

Anna: He just wants to have a game.
Peter: Funny game.

- (Susanne Lothar, Frank Giering)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: May 08, 2006

Stars: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering
Other Stars: Stefan Clapczynski, Doris Kunstmann, Christoph Bantzer
Director: Michael Haneke

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence and brief sexual activity)
Run Time: 01h:44m:07s
Release Date: May 16, 2006
UPC: 738329046224
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The first time I experienced Michael Haneke's 1997 Funny Games was a poor quality VHS rental, back in the pre-DVD days, but it still had a noticeably profound impact on me. Notice I said "experienced" and not "watched", because a Haneke film is kind of like a drug trip, a sometimes lazy and mundane journey that is sporadically broken up by great bursts of the unexpectedly ugly that linger on uncontrollably long. In the years since first discovering Haneke, I've come to eagerly anticipate his new works, though so far none have really split my skull open in the way this one has.

A family vacation (Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Stefan Clapczynski) turns horrific when a pair of sadistic, but well-spoken young men (Arno Frisch, Frank Giering) enter their home and hold them hostage. The level of physical and psychological abuse escalates in unspeakably terrible ways, and Haneke seems to love nothing more than allowing a camera to remain motionless while action occurs just in and out of frame. This effect—and the absence of any proper score—gives Funny Games a strange, disconcerting feel, which is made even stranger by having one of the perpetrators occasionally talk to the camera, or at one point even rewind an entire scene to have play it out differently.

We've seen other movies in which families are terrorized by killers before, and no doubt we'll see more in the future. We have become conditioned to expect the usual conflict and resolution, with elements such as implied danger to children, a good old-fashioned beat down of the hero, and then a revenge-fueled climax where the bad guys get their just desserts. That's the Hollywood version, but a guy like Michael Haneke doesn't play by those boundaries, and in Funny Games there are no screenwriter guarantees about anyone's safety, and it is that relentless frailty of life that boils over as this one moves along its unconventional path.

When a filmmaker can completely unnerve me, I have to sit up and take notice. Haneke quite literally mangled my senses with this film by not playing by the typical rules, and it is such a raw and ugly sensation that it is difficult to ignore. I cannot stress enough that this is not your typical mainstream thriller. There are no "feel good" moments, and things only go from bad to worse in Haneke's world, even as his young killers willingly acknowledge the camera, as if some wink-wink shattering of that fourth wall will draw us in while we wait in vain for something good to happen.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Funny Games comes from Kino in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and having been enhanced for 16x9 treatment is a big plus over the previous R1 Koch Lorber release. Colors remain very understated, but the print quality for this Kino version appears to have undergone a cleanup process to clear up some previous debris and damage issues. Edges are a little soft, and some scenes are peppered with a fine grain (more so than others).

A dramatic improvement over previous R1 versions of Haneke's film.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Germanno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in the original German 2.0 surround, and the majority of the dialogue is locked upfront, save for a few music cues. Voices are clear, and as a dialogue-driven film the presentation is more than serviceable. Anyone familiar with Haneke's works understands the director's penchant for an absence of sound to create mood, and there is no evidence of hiss during these silent passages.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras include a director's filmography, a theatrical trailer and Interview with Director Michael Haneke (18m:28s), a piece that is also found on the R2 version of Funny Games. In it, Haneke spends a majority of the time discussing the film's meaning and the role of violence in our culture.

The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Kino's anamorphic treatment of Michael Haneke's terribly disturbing Funny Games is a technical sidebar that should please R1 fans who up until now have only had the nonanamorphic Koch Lorber version.

This is one of those steel-toed-boot-kick-to-the-crotch movies, a dark, brutal and hopeless experience that delivers very little in the way of good news. It isn't for everyone, so I give this a cautious but vocal high recommendation.


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