Funny Games: As Real As The Reality Which We See

Released in 1997, Funny Games, written and directed by Michael Haneke, tells the story of a family on vacation being invaded, tortured, brutalized, and eventually murdered by two young men. Aside from the fact that the film is incredibly violent without any reason, what’s notable is that Paul, one of the two young murderers, consistently breaks the fourth wall and acknowledges that the audience is viewing the film, and and questions whether him knowing he’s in a film makes it as real as ‘reality’.

Aside from a knowing smirk to us early on, the first major instance of the fourth wall breaking is when Paul and his friend Peter make a bet with the mother, father, son, and us. He says that come 9AM the next day, he and Peter will still be alive, and bets the family will not. Then, Paul turns to the camera and asks us what side we’re on. Haneke uses this moment to immediately put the audience in difficult spot. Usually in film, we’re conditioned to immerse ourselves in the story and characters, and enjoy them, but with the full knowledge that it’s only a fantasy in the end. Whether the people die or not doesn’t matter, because it’s only a story. It’s fiction. Funny Games however, argues there’s little distance between our reality and theirs.

Released eight years later, Haneke’s film Cache has a similar motif of using the camera as a sort of tunnel between an objective reality and the film’s subjective reality. Both have good uses of extremely long single takes on wide shots to make us last in the moment and often feel vaguely voyeuristic, as if the only thing stopping us from helping these people is a thin glass wall in between.

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The most important shot of Cache, if you know what to look for.

So, what’s the point of all this? Haneke himself said that Funny Games was a film about the senseless violence in the media, but it’s also about how we as people see films as compact pre-built legos that can be happily stored away when we’re done with them, and how strange that really is. Paul’s constant gestures to the camera and acknowledgements of us the viewer feels like he’s trying to manifest a reality in his world and create a life past his feature length runtime. I believe that with this, intentionally or not, Haneke poses that if real people are doing real movements with real props, is it not reality? As our special effects, acting talent, and writing grow more complex with time, it becomes both a useless and yet important question to ask. Useless because, taking a step back, this is very obviously a film and no one was actually injured in it; these events did not occur. Still, it’s important as well because in that moment where we see all of this happening, we feel as though it is reality, and that’s a bit scary.

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Paul enacts his bet with the family, and us.

At the end of the film, when the entire family is dead, leaving Paul and Peter on a boat together, Peter talks about the end of another film he was watching about a young boy hero and his family. The boy Kevin is left trapped in cyberspace while his family is in reality at the end. The way Paul discusses this makes it feel like he’s asking us, in the film, if he’s in some form of reality, which is a question more people will have to ask themselves as the years roll on.

So Paul asks, “where is your hero now? In reality or fiction?”

Peter responds, “his family is in reality and he’s in fiction.”

“But the fiction is real, isn’t it?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, you see it in the film, right?”

“Of course.”

Paul smiles and says, “so, it’s just as real as the reality which you see likewise, right?”

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Paul’s “reality”.

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What I Learned From The Kingdom Hearts Primer

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The Kingdom Hearts Primer was teased on September 27th, 2016 and ended on March 2nd, 2018. That’s 522 days to make this series happen, not counting the original botched recording that started exactly a year before the teaser went up. My co-host Brandon Carey and I totaled 103 episodes, averaging about half an hour a piece, or simply a clean 100 if we don’t count the custom-made trailers.
While I didn’t work every single one of those days, the primer was still something that hung around me that entire time, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from it. Here’s a few of those things.

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2018 And Onward | What’s To Come?

Way back in the day, years and years ago, I used to visit these tiny little blogs, always run by one person, that wrote small essays about anime episodes, video games, movies, or whatever else. While the works themselves weren’t all that great, what really enraptured me was the feeling of intimacy I had with someone I’ve never met. These people often loved to use casual language and share personal anecdotes to add to their points, and it created this cozy, “homey” feel to their sites that I loved.

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The Journey’s End | Persona 3

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Note: For this article, it’s assumed that you’ve played Persona 3, or at least have a cursory knowledge of the game’s plot, characters, and combat system. If not, you may find yourself a bit lost.

Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. Remember your death.

Riding the train on the way to a new city and new life, we suddenly experience a moment in time where everything twists. The city is bathed in reds and greens, and everyone around us now resides in a literal coffin. To everyone else, this moment in time doesn’t exist. To us, and a select few others, it has a name: The Dark Hour.

This, and the enormous, seemingly endless, tower that dominates the landscape during this time, make up the bulk of Persona 3’s narrative, themes, and play hours. I can’t honestly say that Persona 3 is better than any of the other games in the franchise, but I feel that some aspects of it are worth taking a closer look at.

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I felt like I spent a lot of 2017 not doing much. While the Kingdom Hearts Primer rolled in and onward from the previous year, the sheer monotony of the editing process started to take its toll on me. At the same time, I also finally filmed one of my dream projects, LAST NIGHT, that I wrote back when I first started film school. Then I proceeded to barely work on the editing for it, even though I had to take off of school for a while do to financial reasons.

Whether for those reasons or not, not too many games seriously gripped me this past year, but even so, I deeply appreciate the level of storytelling, intimate or grandiose, through writing or gameplay, that video games are coming to consistently achieve.

Here’s a few of those.


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The Problem With VIRGINIA And Cinematic Storytelling

VIRGINIA, created by a small handful of devs at Variable State, is a short, two hour, interactive film. With little to no ability to actually control the game most of the time, it’s about the furthest we have seen the bridge between video games and film tilt towards the latter side, yet it does little help guide the narrative or tone, and in places, actually works to its detriment.

The plot of Virginia takes place in 1992, with you playing FBI agent Anne Tarver alongside agent Maria Halperin, looking for a missing young boy. During its run over the course of a week or so, it liberally uses filmlike framing and editing to keep the player invested in the story, but this setup more often than not works against it. The problem is that we often don’t get to control Anne beyond a small frame to move the camera around, because our first instinct when we do is to explore the environment. Look behind us, check the corners of the rooms, explore every square inch before continuing on for tidbits of extra context to the plot. Yet almost every single time, all that’s waiting for the player who excitedly searches for more to learn about this world is a blank, desolate wall, and a now broken pace. At times, we can even miss plot points because we were in one of the few moments where we could actually move around in a full 3D space.

Virginia so desperately needs to played a specific way to be enjoyed completely, and that’s full steam ahead, no matter what. The further we get into the game and stop checking behind us, the quicker the game cuts, the less the music obviously loops.

While I can respect what Virginia is trying to do on some level as a filmmaker myself, it goes much too far in the direction of film that I wondered what I got from actively playing the game at all. The little bits of interactivity come down to a single button press, leaving me feeling like little more than a remote control consistently pressing play because the film wants to make sure I’m paying enough attention.

What I Want From Final Fantasy XV

Author’s Note: I’m well aware that this particular topic has been talked to death at this point, but I think it’s endlessly important to reiterate since it continues to be a quiet but very painful problem in a modern male’s adult life.

I remember the afternoon I was seeing off my old friend Keegan, after he spent the previous night playing video games and watching anime with me. I must have been around 11 or 12 and, without giving any thought to it, I hugged him goodbye. Not some kind of nonchalant side hug, but a real loving one, because he was my best friend and I really cherished him and his friendship. Afterwards my mother took me aside and told me that she thought that was really strange, and that maybe I made Keegan or his mother uncomfortable because of that. While the memory receded quickly, it internally fucked me emotionally up for years.

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