Skip to content

May 2, 2013


Benny’s Video

by Franz Patrick

Benny’s Video (1992)
★★★ / ★★★★

Benny (Arno Frisch) loves to spend time in his room and watch videos. The most recent video that he takes great interest in, to the point of obsession, is the one he recorded while he and his family visited a farm. It shows a butcher taking a gun and shooting a pig in the head. Once the dead pig is dragged off the frame, Benny rewinds the tape to watch it again. And again. In slow motion.

“Benny’s Video,” written and directed by Michael Haneke, is able to look at evil, in the form of a boy’s lust for violence, and explore it fearlessly, without apology. We see what Benny sees, experience what he experiences, so in a way, for a time, we are him.

When his parents (Ulrich Mühe, Angela Winkler) are away one weekend, Benny notices a girl (Ingrid Stassner) outside of his favorite video rental place. He invites her to come over and ends up killing her. The lack of score is immediately noticeable. In most movies with sudden outbursts of violence, music is used to make our hearts a little bit faster, to suggest that that we have seen is terrible and it should have, and will most likely have, consequences. But not here. The lack of score allows us to question how we feel about what we have just witnessed.

There is an element of horror in it. Most of us will feel bad or shocked with the events that happen in the picture. But consider that there are a select few with personality disorders who will not be affected by the images. It isn’t that they choose not to feel. They are born that way, perhaps like Benny. With Haneke’s assured direction, he is able to create that division without sacrificing the implications and difficult questions.

Benny’s actions are curious and frightening. After he kills the girl, he goes to the kitchen, opens the refrigerator, and eats yogurt. I imagine that if I had killed someone, accidentally or not, I am not sure dealing with hunger would be at the top of my to-do list. Thoughts about possibly getting caught would run around my brain. I would probably take a second to gather myself and plan my next course of action.

Not Benny. After eating, he tries to clean up the puddle of blood, using a small rag, so slowly to the point where it seems like he is either enjoying it or does not care. When he notices blood on his torso, he wipes it all over his chest and stomach as if to relish it. Although disturbing, I could not take my eyes off the screen. I felt like I was being dared to keep watching, to question how much more I could handle.

And then there is the parents’ reaction when they find out that their son has committed a heinous crime. Again, the material is rich with implications. Perhaps Benny is not born with a chemical imbalance. Perhaps it has something more to do with who raised him and how he was raised. The writer-director is careful not to give us direct answers.

Though some may claim otherwise, “Benny’s Video” is not created for mere shock value or to encourage controversy. It has something to say about two things: our relationship with violence as a society and what violence means to us personally, when no one is looking at us and judging. It is not just about what we do, it is also about what we choose not to do.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. GaryLee828
    May 2 2013

    I watched this a couple years ago; it definitely was one to hold your attention and make you think. Haneke is a pretty daring director; he used this same actor for the original “Funny Games” he directed, both being edgy films. “Cache” was probably his best film that I’ve seen with this one following.

    • May 3 2013

      It’s so cheeky (and, in a way, it makes sense) that Haneke used Frisch in “Benny’s Video” and then later in “Funny Games.” Frisch has “psycho” in the eyes, I guess. It definitely worked here.

      I remember watching “Cache” in high school… and I hated it!!! I remember having this confused expression written all over my face. I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at or for, for that matter. The extended shots of nothing and everything drove me nuts. It’ll be interesting to see it now (although I am //very// reluctant to do so) to gauge and determine if my opinion toward it has changed.

      • GaryLee828
        May 3 2013

        Hint the word “Cache”. lol. I assume you know it means “hidden”. I liked it just b/c it was so suspenseful and you just never knew what was happening, or why, etc. – and you know those are my kinds of movies.

        But I could definitely see how some would hate it b/c it’s fairly slow in certain parts. I guess people like me who are fans of it are just a testament to Haneke’s unique writing and directing style that he can take a concept that doesn’t have much going on and still make it interesting to many.

        • May 3 2013

          Oh, I //knew// because I took French. It didn’t help. lol. But it still felt like I was tortured for 2 hours. I like a lot of Haneke’s work (“The White Ribbon” made me think about it for weeks) but somehow “Cache” (at least from that one time I saw it) left me nonplussed-angry.

          • GaryLee828
            May 3 2013

            I was so pissed off about The White Ribbon b/c the subtitles of the DVD copy I rented were in white text – and I couldn’t hardly read it b/c the film is in BLACK AND WHITE! Why not YELLOW??? So, I cut it off after a few minutes b/c I didn’t know what the heck was going on. Still agitates me even now b/c I wanted to see the movie.

            • May 3 2013

              Haneke is such a troll. Hahaha. Maybe he did it on purpose. (It didn’t bother me much–the majority of it //can// be read.) I bet some of his most ardent fans think that putting white subtitles against white images is “artistic.”

  2. May 18 2013

    I really like this director’s work and watched Benny’s Video about 2 months ago. I really enjoyed it. It felt like a slice of life without being exploitive, shock value based or manipulative.

    Quite a feat.

    I’m waiting for Amour to come out on Itunes now. Have you seen it? Did you review it? I can’t remember. I wrote about my experience about a film called Mr. Brooks today on my blog.

    Check it out, if you have a moment. I dunno if you’ve seen it…


Feel free to leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: