What drives a director to remake their own film?

Michael Haneke is remaking Funny Games in English. He's just the latest director to revisit his work, as Leigh Singer discovers

Michael Haneke

Funny Games (1997) / Funny Games US (2007)

Michael Haneke claims he always meant his merciless meta-thriller – an Austrian film with an English title – to reach American viewers and, 10 years on, he gets his wish. In this audience-baiting polemic on the nature of violence-as-entertainment, Haneke pits two well-to-do, polite sociopaths against a middle-class couple and their young son. The duo trap the family in their lavish house to torture them psychologically and, eventually, physically.

Haneke is doubtless hoping stars such as Naomi Watts and Tim Roth will entice people into his clinical mousetrap of a film – practically a shot-by-shot remake. The original was shocking a decade ago. Yet numerous you-like-to-watch-don't-you? thrillers released subsequently and the rise of the YouTube generation perhaps nullifies a message Haneke tackled more obliquely – and arguably more effectively – in his masterpiece, Hidden.

Cecil B DeMille
The Ten Commandments (1923) / The Ten Commandments (1956)

Cecil Blount DeMille's silent 1923 The Ten Commandments was billed as "the mightiest dramatic spectacle of all the ages"; his Fifties remake, "the greatest event in motion picture history". Both claims are now laughable, though the repeat suggests DeMille's penchant for excess and sermonising found its perfect match.

His original was epic enough. But the 1956 version, DeMille's biggest – and final – success is pure Old Testament and 70mm spectacle. Moses's (Charlton Heston) granite jaw seems hewn from the same slab as the commandments and the Oscar-winning visual effects – the burning bush, the famous parting of the Red Sea – though hokey today, inspired shock and awe. It's DeMille's tribute to the only showman he considered greater than himself: God.

Alfred Hitchcock
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) / The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

How do you prefer your Hitchcock – black-and-white, gritty British, or exotic, glossy Hollywood? The plot in each of his espionage/kidnap thrillers remains roughly the same – an innocent couple stumbles over an assassination plot and their child is held hostage to ensure their silence – but offers a fascinating comparison of his early and later career.

Both versions have their pleasures. In the first, Edna Best's heroine is a resourceful Olympic-standard markswoman and Peter Lorre an effective bad guy. Doris Day is far more passive in the remake and the villains less memorable. Then again, it does have James Stewart and more intricately sustained suspense sequences, notably the Albert Hall climax. Hitchcock's made clear his own preference, claiming, "the first version was the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional".

Francis Veber
Les Fugitifs (1986) / Three Fugitives (1989)

Hollywood has reimagined French film-makers from Renoir (Boudu Saved from Drowning was remade as Down and Out in Beverly Hills) to Godard (A Bout de Souffle became Breathless) but the roi of remakes is comedy writer-director Francis Veber. So far, seven of his scripts or films have been Americanised, usually with less-than-impressive results.

In the late-1980s, Veber went Stateside to helm the remake of his Les Fugitifs, with Nick Nolte and Martin Short in the Gérard Depardieu/Pierre Richard roles of career criminal trying to go straight and hapless first-time robber with a sickly young daughter. It's not all bad, but the sentimental-slapstick combination translates as frantic schmaltz.

George Sluizer
Spoorloos (1988) / The Vanishing (1992)

Whenever it co-opts foreign-language films, Hollywood is typically cast as the great corruptor of pure world cinema. Not an excuse that film-maker George Sluizer can use, however, as he reworked his peerless Dutch thriller Spoorloos, about a man's obsessive quest for his missing girlfriend and the cat-and-mouse game played with her abductor, into one of the worst remakes of all time.

In place of the original's mounting sense of dread and implacable, inexplicable evil, Sluizer offers us Kiefer Sutherland's macho histrionics and a lame back-story to "explain" Jeff Bridges's villain. Most unforgivable of all, Spoorloos's terrifying, uncompromising ending was junked for an offensively pat nick-of-time rescue. The chilling original lives on while the remake has been deservedly buried without a trace.

Michael Mann
LA Takedown (1989) / Heat (1995)

After Miami Vice, Michael Mann was looking to establish a new police television series. 1989's LA Takedown was the pilot episode, though when the project was aborted, Mann's loss was a future jackpot. Expanded into a three-hour crime epic, Heat is the film that confirmed him as one of modern cinema's heavyweights.

Mann made the most of the extra opportunity to flesh out relationships and dynamics, exercise his fearsome technical prowess and hire the best actors. Watching the first film second, it's fascinating to witness scene after familiar scene – the post-heist street shootout, the coffee shop head-to-head – unfold, with unheralded, often over-emphatic actors. It's a little like watching a village hall drama troupe tackle Shakespeare: earnest, passionate but simply lacking, though better actors than Alex McArthur and the late, unfortunately named Scott Plank would be hard-pressed to match Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

Robert Rodriguez
El Mariachi (1992) / Desperado (1995)

In 1992, guerilla film-makers thrilled to the story of El Mariachi, a DIY shoot-'em-up about a Mexican gun-slinging guitar hero, made for $7,000, largely funded by writer-director-cameraman-editor Robert Rodriguez subjecting himself to medical experimentation, that became a cult international hit.

Gatecrashing Hollywood and adding three zeros to his budget, Rodriguez followed it up with Desperado, a retooling of his debut, now armed with cash, a crew and Latino stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

Slicker and busier, Desperado upped the stakes and cemented Rodriguez's status as mainstream auteur. Banderas and Hayek radiate fiery heat, but in terms of raw charm, invention and on a bang-per-buck ratio, El Mariachi remains the last man standing.

Ole Bornedal
Nightwatch (1994) / Nightwatch (1997)

A university student (Ewan McGregor) takes a job at a morgue only to find himself implicated in a series of gruesome prostitute murders. Dimension Films quickly snapped up Ole Bornedal's Danish smash-hit, then drafted Bornedal in – with Steven Soderbergh co-scripting – to direct a supposedly refined American remake.

Though the promising B-movie set-up and several shot-for-shot stalking scenes remain, the retread rips off David Fincher's Se7en something rotten (despite Bornedal's 1994 original pre-dating it), with its fetid interiors and disgust with humanity. It also loses the original's winningly scabrous tone. A grunge-chic remake that's all sheen and no soul.

Takashi Shimizu
Ju-On (2003) / The Grudge (2004)

Since the young Japanese director Takashi Shimizu first released a video entitled Ju-On (The Grudge) in 2000, about a virus-like curse that haunts and kills its victims, he's been responsible for six Grudge movies: a pair of Japanese video premieres, two Japanese features and US remakes of both. Fans might call him a perfectionist; critics, a one-trick pony.

Truth is, the Grudge formula is so straightforward that identikit English-language remakes were inevitable (even if, admirably, still set in Japan).

'Funny Games US' opens on 4 April

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'