Denarration in Michael Haneke’s funny FUNNY games GAMES [an audiovisual essay]

Kiss, M., 24-Jan-2016

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual ProductsAcademic

In literary fiction, Brian Richardson has discerned a troubling kind of incongruity that he labelled denarration. Denarration is “an intriguing and paradoxical narrative strategy that appears in a number of late modern and postmodern texts” (Richardson 2001, 168). Richardson coins the term for cases in which the narrator of a story “denies significant aspects of the narrative that had earlier been presented as given. The simplest example of this might be something like, ‘Yesterday it was raining. Yesterday it was not raining’” (ibid.).
Comparable examples of denarration, or disnarration (Warhol 2005), even unprojection (Ghosal 2015), can be found in film too. For example a film can provide us brief moments of insight into a protagonist’s mental state. This may happen when a film presents us events in a seemingly objective manner, but shortly afterwards contradicts or corrects these as having been a lie or fantasy (as happens in 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'). However, as Robyn R. Warhol argues, such realist representations of subjectivity are actually part of the film’s ordinary narration (and thereby do not qualify to be examples of disnarration): "the film tells that the character is having this fantasy or this dream, and the film signals (by the character’s suddenly jolting awake, for instance) that the sequence is not to be taken as an authoritative set of actions within the diegesis (Warhol 2005, 229)."
A provocatively bold local example that does restore the denarrated action’s authority within the diegesis appears in Michael Haneke’s sinister hostage drama 'Funny Games' (1997 / 2007). Ann’s succeeded and failed attempts are both part of the film’s story. Following the reversal and the prevention of Ann’s action, Paul (being in full control of Haneke’s game) looks back and reflects on the first version: “You shouldn’t have done that Ann! You are not allowed to break the rules!”
[excerpts from my forthcoming book (co-written with Steven Willemsen): "Impossible Puzzle Films: A Cognitive Approach to Contemporary Complex Cinema". Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016]
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 24-Jan-2016


  • audiovisual essay, audiovisual analysis, videographic work, Film Analysis

ID: 28014358