Violence Hates Games? Revolting (against) Violence in Michael Haneke’s <i>Funny Games U.S.</i>


Violence Hates Games? Revolting (against) Violence 

in Michael Haneke’s Funny Games U.S.

Abstract: This article aims at exploring Haneke’s Funny Games U.S. as a protest against violence employed in the mainstream cinema. Satisfying compensatory needs of the spectators, constructing their identities, and even contributing to the biopolitics of neoliberalism, proliferating bloodthirsty fantasies put scholars in a suspicious position of treating them as either purely aesthetical phenomena or exclusively ethical ones. Haneke’s film seems to resist such a clear-cut binary; what is more, it contributes immensely to the criticism of mainstream cinematic violence. Misleading with its initial setting of a conventional thriller, Haneke employs absurd brutality in order to overload violence itself. The scenes of ruthless tortures are entangled in the ongoing masquerade, during which swapping roles, theatrical gestures, and temporary identities destabilize seemingly fixed positions of perpetrators and their victims, and tamper with the motives behind the carnage. As I would argue, by confronting its spectators with unbearable cruelty devoid of closing catharsis, Funny Games deconstructs their bloodthirsty desire of retaliation and unmasks them as the very reason for the violence on screen. Following, among others, Jean-Luc Nancy and Henry A. Giroux, I would like to demonstrate how Haneke exhausts the norm of acceptable violence to reinstate such a limit anew.


Haneke; violence; affect; brutality; Funny Games; cinema

Giroux, Henry A. Youth in Revolt. Reclaiming a Democratic Future. Routledge, 2016.

Grundmann, Roy. “Introduction: Haneke’s Anachronism.” A Companion to Michael Haneke, edited by Roy Grundmann. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 1-50.

Haneke, Michael, dir. Funny Games U.S. Perf. Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt et al. Warner Independent Pictures, 2007. DVD.

Haneke, Michael. “Violence and the Media,” translated by Evan Torner. A Companion to Michael Haneke, edited by Roy Grundmann. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 575-579.

Monk, Leland. “Hollywood Endgames.” A Companion to Michael Haneke, edited by Roy Grundmann. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 420-437.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. “Image and Violence.” The Ground of the Image, translated by Jeff Fort. Fordham University Press, 2005, pp. 15-26.

Peucker, Brigitte. “Games Haneke Plays: Reality and Performance.” A Companion to Michael Haneke, edited by Roy Grundmann. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 130-146.

Pisters, Patricia. The Matrix of Visual Culture: Working with Deleuze in Film Theory. Stanford, California, 2003.

Published : 2020-08-16

KisielM. (2020). Violence Hates Games? Revolting (against) Violence in Michael Haneke’s <i>Funny Games U.S.</i&gt;. Review of International American Studies, 13(1), 183-196.

Michał Kisiel
Institute of Literary Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland  Poland

Michał Kisiel holds a PhD in Humanities and an MA in English from the University of Silesia in Katowice. His dissertation focused on the categories of subject and undecidability in Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, and Samuel Beckett. Currently, he is working on the thesis devoted to the unfolding of Samuel Beckett and Tadeusz Kantor by means of new materialist methods. Aside from that, his interests include the correspondence between literature and philosophy, and the ontological turn in humanities. In 2015, he participated in The Northwestern University Paris Program in Critical Theory.

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