By Lois Kennedy
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Arno Frisch, Ulrich Muhe, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Stassner
Benny is a teenage boy who’s obsessed with filming everything in his life. He has cameras filming, among other things, his room and the street outside. He also enjoys watching violent movies. He takes his joy of spectating too far one day when he invites a girl home and murders her. His parents, guilty but scared of repercussions of turning Benny in, rationalize helping him cover up the incident, but Benny’s not done misbehaving.
If you’re a Michael Haneke fan, you’ll recognize both Ulrich Muhe (as Benny’s dad) and Arno Frisch (as Benny) from Funny Games, playing Georg and Paul, respectively. Here Frisch plays a much less flamboyant psychopath. Benny starts out seeming like a typical boy, maybe a bit more preoccupied with violence and the finer points of pig slaughtering than most. His descent into true evil is unveiled slowly. He records himself committing a murder and lets his parents see the video on their television, and his final act in the film is diabolical.
Benny’s actions are never explained. Nothing in his life or background suggests that he’s had anything but a comfortable, boring life. His acts are presented in a straightforward manner, with no mention of his thoughts or motivations. He kills, then eats a carton of yogurt, then dispassionately paws through his victim’s possessions. Social problems are hinted at in the background on the news: “Football hooligans beat up asylum-seekers,” and “Serbian troops attacked civilian targets…” However, Benny simply has no feelings or remorse. He does what he wants without regard to the consequences, then manipulates people to help him cover up his mess.
Aside from the limitations of early ’90s technology, the film looks great. The performances are spectacular, particularly Frisch as coolly calculating Benny and Muhe as his loving father, who tries in vain to understand why his son acts the way he does. It’s a fascinating and creepy journey into a banal but compelling evil. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something serious, well-made, and thought-provoking.
I could not find a decent trailer, so here is a critic briefly discussing the movie.