Controversy-courting director Michael Haneke (CACHÉ) earned the Palm d’Or at Cannes in 2009 for this arresting drama set just before World War I. In a small German village, a number of unexplained accidents beset the schoolchildren and their parents. Though they at first appear coincidental, it begins to seem that they are not, in fact, accidents at all.
One of the simplest indicators to me, in terms of how much I’ve liked a movie, is the amount of time I’ll spend at home that night reading about it. It’s bordering on 2 hours now with Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon; suffice it to say, it got my attention.
I haven’t seen any other Haneke films [that will change, no doubt], but from the opening credits, delivered in deathly silence [I found myself holding my breath], I had a huge grin on my face because I knew I was in for a most excellent ride. Did I mention the ridiculous level of uneasiness that is maintained throughout the movie?!
The direction and the way this movie looks is amazing! I raved a little about A Single Man earlier this year, but The White Ribbon just took it to a whole other level. The decision to ultimately release this in black and white was genius, and some of the imagery, one shot in particular, when the snow first starts falling, was nothing short of mesmerising. It really is the most beautiful looking movie I’ve ever seen.
This would have been enough of a reason for me to see this movie [I hadn’t seen the trailer, which I’m thankful for now], but then Haneke’s writing [and the acting to pull it off] is spot on too; How did this not win every ensemble cast award that exists?! In particular, two of the youngest child actors are standouts, with the scenes involving the discussion around death and the rehabilitation of a wounded bird being two of my favourite scenes from the movie.
Thematically, the title of the movie is brought to the fore by the pastor, who ties a white ribbon to his son and daughter, to serve as a constant reminder of the innocence and purity they fail to exhibit, made all the funnier [in a dark, disturbing way] by the hypocritical, control freak of a father the pastor is. And let’s face it, he’s not the only fascist around in this movie, which has led many to state that it’s a commentary on how Nazism came to rise in subsequent generations.
The movie leaves the major mystery up in the air, so don’t go expecting a nicely packaged box, ribbon et al [see what I did there?!] of answers, but do know that this is why I love movies.