Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA/France/United Kingdom/Austria/Germany/Italy, 2007. Celluloid Dreams, Halcyon Pictures, Tartan Films, X-Filme Creative Pool, Lucky Red, Kinematograf, Belladonna Productions, Serenity Film, Warner Independent Pictures. Screenplay by Michael Haneke. Cinematography by Darius Khondji. Produced by Christian Baute, Chris Coen, Hamish McAlpine, Hengameh Panahi, Andro Steinborn. Production Design by Kevin Thompson. Costume Design by David C. Robinson. Film Editing by Monika Willi.
Michael Haneke goes back to his roots by remaking, shot for shot, his 1997 thriller with English-speaking actors. This time the happy couple are played by Tim Roth and Naomi Watts, who are vacationing at their sunny beach house when snotty, sadistic strangers Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet press their way in, take them and their son hostage and begin a night of horrors. As the traumatic scenes proceed, we as a viewer begin to disassociate ourselves emotionally from the characters in order to survive the trauma and, in doing so, become complicit in the violent acts perpetrated against them. It’s fascinating to see that the story still maintains the same tension after so many years without any changes being made to the plot, but none of it actually matters. If Haneke wanted his message about violence to really resonate by transporting it across cultures, it might have been more effective (or at least more fun) if he had made some obvious changes in a Hollywood vein, say a crowd-pleasing ending done in his brilliantly ironic style, or used tabloid-level, A-list movie stars instead of respected actors (neither of the leads is American). As it stands, the film does not translate beyond the art house crowd more than his original did (as its reception proved), and while it’s a better remake of its kind than, say, Gus Van Sant’s pointless remake of Psycho, it does feel more like the auteur stretching his legs between masterpieces than any impressive kind of effort.