Benny’s Video (1992)

bennys-video

A fundamentally flawed, disturbing film.

‘Benny’s Video’ is a genuinely unsettling film whose premise concerns a scene that is particularly disturbing and visceral. The film concentrates on Benny, a seemingly sociopathic teenager, and his regimented, staid parents known simply as ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’. Benny lives a materially charmed life, having an array of electronics bought for him by his affluent middle class parents. This technology allows him to indulge in his interest, or rather obsession, with videos, both watching and recording them.

The film’s message is a relevant one, it suggests that the media has a detrimental, and in this case fatal, desensitising effect. However, it suggests this in a rather hyperbolic fashion. The film loses its credibility through how explicitly and rather insularly it conveys its message. In my opinion, it’s clear that Benny is a warped individual with an innate lack of remorse, no film or news report can rid someone of their senses to the point of sociopathy. Benny is a contemptible person, and he’s purposely constructed that way, but he isn’t someone who’s the product of desensitisation; his cold, empathy devoid persona is that of genealogically tarnished mind.

Narratively speaking, the film’s first hour or so engrosses you with its unpleasantness and realism. The film places the viewer in a ‘What If?’ situation that’s somewhat reminiscent of films such as ‘Deliverance’, however it isn’t even half as resonant owing to the abhorrence of the film’s events, the callousness of Benny and the steely reserve of his parents. During the last 40 minutes of the film, there is something of a pacing problem, I felt the film lost the edge and tension it had created; this isn’t a particularly pressing issue, but the film certainly felt longer than 105 minutes.

I found ‘Benny’s Video’ to be a fundamentally flawed film; it would’ve worked if it had a more balanced, rational message at its core. Many lobbyists, in the haze of their ignorance and typically political agendas, would vehemently agree with this film. I am of the opinion that there is a substantial difference between watching something and doing something. Violent media can, at the very, very most, be a mere substitutional factor amongst many factors that could somewhat exacerbate the pace of an unhinged, unwell mind.

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Funny Games (1997)

funnygamesy

It’s condescending in its ill-judged commentary, but ‘Funny Games’ is an undeniably gripping and powerful film

‘Funny Games’ is one of the most provocative films I have ever seen, if not the most. Michael Haneke revisits themes of the media and desensitisation like he did in ‘Benny’s Video’, however this time Haneke is directly confronting his audience about the violence they supposedly watch with relish.

The antagonist of the film actually addresses the audience, asking ‘Don’t you want some plot development?’, ‘You’re on their side, aren’t you?’ He needlessly injects this nasty film with condescension and pretension, and none of it really works, Haneke only succeeds in appearing smug and self-righteous. Haneke has said that he makes the viewer an ‘accomplice’ of the murderers. No he doesn’t, not at all. Not once did I even begin to want to be an ‘accomplice’, the antagonists are some of the most wretched I’ve ever seen, it’s nonsense. During the evil mind games that the killers inflict on the family, I felt like them, a victim, not an ‘accomplice’. I, like any other viewer, was desperately hoping that the family could somehow escape their captors.

The ill-judged provocation climaxes in a scene where Haneke ‘manipulates’ the audience, making them ‘applaud’ violence; but applauding is a completely justified response to the scene, which, without giving anything away, concerns the maiming of a truly reprehensible character. If Haneke himself was in Anna and Georg’s situation, he’d be utterly liberated by what occurs; it is the film’s most self-righteous, hypocritical scene. It is obvious that violence can be used accordingly, it is sometimes a necessity, and this particular scene is the most appropriate use of violence imaginable.

The majority of the violence one witnesses in film and TV is far removed from reality, people are aware and afraid of the ugly, messy truth of violence, the films that ‘Funny Games’ tries to chastise serve only as harmless escapism. Haneke seems very pleased with this creation, but he shouldn’t be, this rather ambitious film falls flat, achieving in merely riling its audience, not holding a mirror to their faces.

Haneke seems to think he has the viewer in a vice-like grip, and he does, but certainly not in the way he thinks he does, which is ‘manipulating’ and exposing sick little voyeurs. Instead, he keeps the stranglehold on his audience through his skill of building excruciating tension to the point where the eventual violence, which is never gratuitous, is wholly more devastating.

It’s undeniably powerful, and the acting is unsettlingly excellent; it’s a thoroughly unpleasant, tortuous film. However, if you need reminding of the ugly reality of violence, there are many films out there that will deliver without the pretense.

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