“Funny Games,” “The Passion of the Christ,” and Dirty Harry

I should post this as a follow-up to my previous question: “Does anybody want to defend Michael Haneke’s Funny Games?”

Thanks to Chattaway for finding this article by Gabriel McKee at Religion Dispatches:

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‚Äôt 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.

Please post your comments on that previous thread, to consolidate responses and thoughts on the film, and on appropriate depictions of violence in film.

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