Before any discussion of the poster for Funny Games ensues, I must emphasize that the German turned American film, by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, is without a doubt a terrifying, horror movie. Funny Games is grotesque, actually, with very sinister undertones and a fair bit of gore. In designing a poster for this film, L.A. based creative Akiko Stehrenberger, made a definitive choice. Rather than funnel perception of the film toward a bloody and bone chilling horror mess, Stehrenberger focused the branding toward a clean and minimal approach, one that is rarely seen within the horror genre.
By eliminating the clichés of traditional horror genre, like distressed fonts or heavy distortion and dark hues, the poster uses only one key element: the mysterious crying face of Naomi Watts. This strong visual is taken from the exact moment in the film when things turn seriously ugly. The vision for Funny Games freezes Watts in a moment of sheer exhaustion and devastation at the hands of two terrorizing “neighbours”.
Stehrenberger, an illustrator, painter and art director, used digital painting in calm muted undertones to recreate the anguished face that haunts the film. Reminiscent of a Chuck Close photorealist sketch, Stehrenberger’s take, similar to the events that unfold in the film, bring on a horrific sense of extended reality. The simple typography and smaller placement of the text in relation to the size and space that is given to the image of Watts in agony, conveys the true terror of the film, and allows for the haunting image to speak for itself.
An avid film poster designer, Stehrenberger has also created posters for the Todd Solondz film Life During Wartime, Sophia Coppola’s film Somewhere, the haunting drama We Need to Talk About Kevin, and the ultra fun, eccentric documentary Surfwise. Most recently Akiko Stehrenberger won the SXSW award for excellence in poster design for the 2012 film Kiss of the Damned.