The Austrian director and screenwriter Michael Haneke has become internationally known for disturbing and often brutal films that seek to undermine viewers’ expectations while holding them guilty for the crimes playing out on-screen. In this paper, I will extend the idea that his horror-thriller Funny Games (1997) is founded on the programmatic subversion of conventions and ingrained viewing habits to the mechanisms of cross-cultural remaking. In his shot-by-shot remake Funny Games U.S. (2007), I argue, Haneke experiments with the meaning of the cross-cultural remake itself. Against the common allegation that US remakes of foreign films are a form of cultural imperialism, Haneke used Hollywood connections in order to have a wider distribution and to position his art house film within the US entertainment culture. And although he makes concessions concerning the language, location, and cast of actors, Haneke meticulously recreates settings and props, and repeats almost every single shot and line of his original film without adapting Funny Games to the American cultural context as is typically expected of cross-cultural remakes. This refusal distinguishes Haneke from other European directors who have remade their films according to Hollywood demands. He was instead compared to Alfred Hitchcock, an auteur filmmaker obsessed with revising his earlier work, and with Gus Van Sant, whose painstakingly exact shot-by-shot remake of Psycho (1960) was met with hostility by Hitchcock fans, critics, and academics upon its release in 1998.
Kathleen Loock is a DAAD P.R.I.M.E. Fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is author of Kolumbus in den USA (2014), a book that studies the commemorative constructions and deconstructions of Christopher Columbus in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. Her other publications include the co-edited the essay collections Of Body Snatchers and Cyberpunks: Student Essays on American Science Fiction Film (2011), and Film Remakes, Adaptations and Fan Productions: Remake | Remodel (2012) as well as special issues, journal articles, and book chapters on cultural memory, immigrant literature, ethnic foodways, paper money and national identity as well as serial narratives and the cultural history of film remakes and sequels.