The White Ribbon ["Das Weisse Band"]
(Austria , Germany , France, Italy, 2009, 144 mins, 35mm)
Mon, Oct 12th 9:00pm | Empire Granville 7
Thu, Oct 15th 3:00pm | Empire Granville 7
Winner of the Palme d'Or, Cannes 2009. In a German village in the early part of the last century, something is terribly amiss with the children. As always, Michael Haneke's take on the human condition resists easy definition. "A rich, detailed work pregnant with the sinister undertones and evil deeds for which the filmmaker's work is legendary..." - Screen International
With this new film, Haneke returns to his classic themes of guilt, denial and violence as the mysterious symptoms of mass dysfunction. The White Ribbon is a period film set in a secluded northern German village on the eve of the first world war, shot in a pellucid monochrome, impeccably acted, and directed with this filmmaker's icily exact rigour and severity.
An isolated community is shaken by unpleasant, inexplicable events: a razor trip-wire fells the local doctor on his horse, and he is badly injured. The landowning baron's son is found, bound and whipped. A boy with Down's syndrome is horribly abused. The white ribbon of the title is a badge of mortification: the pastor's children must wear it as a reminder of their sinful state and need for purity. But of course it is effectively the symbol of the retaliatory violence to come.
Like Haneke's earlier film HIDDEN, this is to some degree about the return of the repressed. Unlike that movie, however, The White Ribbon is not about the repercussions of a single buried event, but a continuous diseased process, in which those without power... are in a permanent state of futile rebellion against authority, expressed in spiteful acts of anonymous nastiness... The White Ribbon has an absolute confidence and mastery of its own cinematic language, and the performances Haneke elicits from his first-rate cast, particularly the children, are eerily perfect. The Guardian
The film just played in the New York Film Festival. There's a fine profile of the director in the Oct 5 New Yorker: here are some clippings...
And here's a link to something I wrote on my last encounter with Herr Haneke, at VIFF 2006 - TIME OF THE WOLF - available at Videomatica, as are most of the director's films.