Release Date: Dec. 30 (limited)
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Starring: Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi, Leoni Benesch
Studio: X-Filme Creative Pool. 144 minutes
Sometimes evil is black and white
The White Ribbon looks deceptively familiar—like an old Twilight Zone episode, or one of those late-night films discovered while channel-surfing. But Michael Haneke’s seemingly simple, black-and-white story—set in a German village just before the start of World War I—is a step above and a grade darker than your average whodunit.
When the town’s doctor is seriously injured by a booby trap, the adults are mystified but the children are strangely silent—a fact that only the town’s schoolteacher seems to notice, while the deaths and disappearances continue. The characters most central to the film are also most central to the village—the doctor, the pastor, the baron. And hidden behind their families’ doors are the secrets of a child’s nightmares—sexual improprieties, corporal punishment, death. Bear in mind, this is the same generation that will be responsible for the future horrors of Nazi Germany.
The brilliant cinematography gives a life to the village that becomes as important as the intense performances from an incredible cast. By the time the end credits roll, almost two-and-a-half hours later, questions still remain, and Haneke fails to provide neatly tied answers. But he also gives us the necessary tools to explore the film’s depths, as if to say, “I’ve taken you this far. Isn’t that enough?”