this film starts off with a happy family(Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Devon Gearhart) driving to their lake cabin, listening to nice classical music. this nice background noise is suddenly replaced by REALLY LOUD screaming metal rock, that only the audience can hear. its intrusive, disorientating and ultimately frustrating. much like the film itself.
a shot-for-shot remake of the German original by original writer/director Michael Haneke, the film wastes very little time getting into the story, which is basically this happy family being terrorized by two upper-class lunatics, played by Michael Pitt (The Dreamers) and a unibrowed Brady Corbet (Mysterious Skin). the reasoning behind the attack is never explained, but that is never really the point of this movie.
instead, it is supposed to be an exercise in audience participation, with Michael Pitt constantly breaking the fourth wall, and asking plot developing questions directly at the cinema audience. sometimes this self-awareness within a movie can work, and sometimes it can’t. and while it may have proved original, and therefore tolerable in the original version of this movie, here it just proves infuriating. especially during one scene of the movie when something happens that one of the characters dislikes, so he simply picks up a remote control, rewinds the movie that we are watching, and plays it through again, only this time changing the outcome of the event.
there is alot to this movie that can be appreciated. Naomi Watts proves once again that she is one of the best actresses of our generation, taking on a role that requires to her to spend much of her time in her underwear, with tears and snot hanging from her face. Haneke directs everyone well, and many of the scenes are 3 or 4 minutes long without cutting away once, lending itself to some truly uncomfortable viewing. and genius cinematographer Darius Khondji (director of photography for visually stunning movies like Se7en, The Beach and Panic Room) once again lends his prowess to make this a great movie to look at.
but this isn’t a movie that can be enjoyed. and while there are some fantastic movies that are not easy to watch (Schindler’s List, Irreversible), this does not fall under that category, mainly due to the fact that it is ultimately so depressing to watch. it seems to be a massive step backwards for director Haneke, whose previous movie Cache (Hidden) dealt with the same threats of invasion and violence, but in a much more mature and stylistic way. and it is clear why Watts found the film intriguing enough to remake (she also acts as executive producer), but while it may have been a challenge for her as an actress, it is also a challenge for the audience. one that many may not be able to endure.
five out of ten.