EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|WHITE RIBBON, THE (DAS WEISSE BAND) (director/writer: Michael Haneke; cinematographer: Christian Berger; editor: Monika Willi; cast: Ulrich Tukur (the Baron), Susanne Lothar (the Midwife), Christian Friedel (the Schoolteacher), Burghart Klaussner (the Pastor), Leonie Benesch (Eva), Josef Bierbichler (the Steward), Rainer Bock (the Doctor), Ernst Jacobi (the Narrator), Ursina Lardi (Marie-Louise, the Baroness), Fion Mutert (Sigmund), Branko Samarovski (the Farmer), Leonard Proxauf (Martin), Maria- Victoria Dragus (Klara), Michael Kranz (the Tutor), Fion Mutert (Sigi), Josef Bierbichler (The Steward), Eddy Grahl (Karli); Runtime: 144; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Stefan Arndt/Veit Heiduschka/Margaret Menegoz/Andrea Occhipinti; Sony Pictures Classics; 2009-Germany-in German with English subtitles)|
|"Disturbing and provocative shocker."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke ("Funny Games"/"Code Unknown"/"The Piano Teacher") creates an opaque yet accessible murder mystery story told in a fine detailed way about German repression and hidden fascist's roots and how the evil seeds of the parents (bad parenting that includes sexual abuse, no open communication and corporal punishment) are passed down to their children which makes them susceptible to later Nazi influences. It's shot in a luminous black-and-white. The White Ribbon (the title derived from a white ribbon worn by the pastor's troubled daughter Klara--Maria- Victoria Dragus-- to remind her of purity) is a disturbing and provocative shocker that reminded me of a Kafka novel or the 1976 evil-kid pic "Who Can Kill A Child?"
It won at Cannes the Palme d'Or.
Haneke sets it in a
rural feudal Protestant village in northern Germany
during 1913-1914, on the brink of World War I. It's told
in flashback by an elderly teacher's voice (Ernst Jacobi), who
at the time of the story (probably some 40 years
earlier) was an innocent 31-year-old teacher (Christian Friedel)
courting the 17-year-old innocent nanny Eva (Leonie Benesch). She
was just hired to take care of the baron's (Ulrich Tukur) twins
and lived on his estate.
It tells of several strange
accidents that occur in the village that are never
solved, that starts with the unhappy widowed doctor (Rainer Bock)
hospitalized for a broken collarbone after his horse
trips over a hidden wire laid over his path home,
followed months later by the suspicious accidental death
of a tenant farmer's wife falling through the rotted
floor of the baron's mill, the kidnap torturing of the
unpopular but respected baron's young child (Fion
Mutert), animals killed by torture and the blinding of
the gentle retarded Karli (Eddy Grahl)--the son of the midwife (Susanne Lothar).
It's strongly hinted that the uptight stern pastor's (Burghart Klaussner)
children and the child members of the choir might be
responsible for these incidents, but it's never proven
and the pastor vehemently refuses to believe that. At the onset of World
War I, just as Archduke Ferdinand of Austria has
been assassinated in Sarajevo, the investigation is
halted by the police as the village turns its complete
attention to the war. The story's would-be hero and
narrator, the sensitive teacher, is drafted and
after the war he never returns to the village again and
never sees anyone in the story again except for Eva. She
became his wife and he became a tailor.
Haneke asks us to consider
that these terrible incidents were a harbinger of the
rise of Nazism in Germany, for a population that was too
numb to its chilling upbringing to find love in their
hearts for others. We are left at both the beginning and
ending of this haunting period film images of an idyllic
pastoral setting, but for most of the film we witness
class division and unpleasant authority figures pushing
their weight around on others who are in lower
positions. There's no one person to blame, but an entire
culture for its poor child-rearing and bankrupt church
and twisted sense of morality.
REVIEWED ON 3/24/2010 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ