The Film Site was started with a certain outlook, … a mission statement of sorts, and that was to provide the largest and most varied collection of reviews on the web. It’s all baby-steps, but one thing that I wanted to do is review, not only the mainstream films, but also introduce myself and others to talented filmmakers that they might other-wise not see. Michael Haneke is far from unknown as a director, but a lot of his work hasn’t always been appreciated by the mainstream public, and I wasn’t familiar with a lot of it until recent weeks. Benny’s Video is a 1992 Austrian-Swiss horror-of-personality film. What exactly is a horror-of-personality film? The term isn’t something I was familiar with, but it’s actually films like Psycho, films that focus on the scariness of a person’s mind and mannerisms, and not necessarily his actions. The film stars Arno Frisch in the lead, alongside Angela Winkler and Ulrich Muhe.
The film offers a character-study of sorts about a boy named Benny that kills a young-girl and begins exhibiting cold and isolated behavior.
I feel like that description isn’t exactly the best, and if I am completely honest with you, it’s a difficult film to talk about. What’s even more difficult is that I have a lot to say about it. I don’t mean this to say that it’s overtly disturbing or anything like that, although there is definitely some imagery in there that’s on the darker side, but it’s difficult to discuss because it’s an anomaly. The way it’s shot shows a minimalistic budget, and for that, and for a lot of other reasons, it isn’t for everyone. The biggest thing that made Benny’s Video standout to me is the way its shot, as well as the pacing. Michael Haneke has made a reputation for himself about taking the romanticism out of violence, films like Funny Games show that, and though unlike that film, this one plays it completely straight from beginning to end. While it’s centered around the murder of a young girl, everything is dragged out in such a maddening way that it really takes the punch out of it. That’s why I say it isn’t for everyone. Elongated scenes simply with the character doing frivolous tasks and real-time shots make this a very long-winded experience. In all honesty, it’s a boring film.
There isn’t a whole lot of action or commotion, and the film has a subtlety and simplicity about it that comes off more tedious than endearing. I think you could call it an art-house style, and it might add up to a little too much when it’s all said and done because of it. Still, the reason I like this film, and the reason I felt reason to talk about it is actually for those reasons. While it doesn’t necessarily make for the most entertaining film, the film made me think when it was all said and done. There isn’t anything thrown in your face, but I think there are some small, little character traits that are worth appreciating, and a slow-burn character development that’s admirable. There’s another little something that some might not like either.
Benny’s obsession to violent films and movies seems to trigger a lot of his aggressiveness and tendencies. Nobody likes hearing that little tidbit. The idea that films create killers, or anything like that, and myself included, because it takes a person with problems in the first place to be so susceptible. We don’t like hearing it. Especially film fans. Video-Game fans have been subject to the same backlash. That’s one reason why some might like this, but I don’t think this is a bad characteristic. In Benny’s Video, it depicts the character as being almost completely cut off from reality and it’s done to such a reclusive extent that it’s fair to say that Benny made a self-exile away from everyone else. Most film aficionados are able to differentiate reality from fiction. When they see Leather Face toting a chainsaw, they look at it as a movie, and they know that there’s no reason to emulate such an act. Benny comes off as am empty-vessel that indulges and soaks it in, and maybe because his lack of consistent human-contact, his line becomes blurred.
If there is anything at all I’ve noticed while watching this film that also stood out, it’s that the characters are almost completely devoid of emotion. In-fact, that’s an understatement. Everybody is painfully serious and very rarely cracks a smile. I think this was by design and I think it adds something to the aesthetic of the film. You’re watching characters that feel extremely distant, and you just sort-of watch their slice of life, seeing a character that doesn’t seem to have a conscience.
Benny’s Video isn’t a great film. I don’t even know if I would call it a good film, but I know that it’s an interesting one. A lot of interesting ideas that hit-and-miss, and a lot of slow pacing to discourage viewers. It’s a boring film, but one that I look at with fondness.
Thanks for reading…