Michael Haneke doesn’t like torture porn. He calls the likes of Hostel, Saw, etc “torture-porn shit”. As such, Herr Haneke has prepared an 111-minute lecture about how morally depraved and slightly thick anybody is who derives any enjoyment from watching blood splatter across the screen. Sound fun? It’s not.
This, of course, is a remake – a near shot-for-shot copy of the Austrian’s own 1997 German-language film of the same name. Ten years on, it stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, big-ish name actors to draw the punters into Haneke’s edgy exploration of what happens when a very nice US family is slowly torn asunder by two young golf club-wielding nutbags (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet). The kicker? You barely see any of the violence.
The movie itself – much like the original – is gripping; horrid in the manner Haneke cranks tension and barely ever releases. But it’s hard to escape the smugness seeping through this whole (film school) endeavour. (In-story frame rewinds? It’s been aped in Click for gawd’s sake.) It may have been fresh a decade ago, but does the director really think his message so vital it needs telling all over again? His motives, apparently, were to make the film appeal to its intended American audience, but how many gore-hungry frat boys are going to sit through Euro arthouse fare just because it stars the girl from King Kong in her undies?
So it’s good, but also didactic and arrogant. This is a man who, with 2005’s Hidden, persuaded viewers to seek answers by watching very, very closely. Here, he barely wants you to think. He probably doesn’t reckon you’re capable.