The White Ribbon Screen 9 articles

The White Ribbon

2009

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  • The black-and-white visuals astonish, but it still plays like Peyton Place on the Rhine, literally drained of all color and with the melodrama performed monotone.

  • Michael Haneke’s fondness for scolding didacticism just don’t work for some people, myself among them. But “The White Ribbon” is a whole other thing, a movie where anything dreadful that can happen will, just to prove that people are so terrible you can’t even count on them not to turn into Nazis, or something like that.

  • The masterfully oblique sins-of-the-father mystery Haneke used for Benny’s Video and Caché goes awry here: providing too much evidence of the children’s complicity, the free-floating threat deflates; leaving too much of the adults’ indiscretions flagrantly out in the open, questions of motivation are met with pat answers; in demonstrating how familial and societal institutions instill repression and evade responsibility,

  • The film is thankfully light on the Austrian auteur's patented high-handed shocks. Instead, Haneke unfurls a tapestry of barren relationships and deforming conformity in which the greatest jolt comes not from a director arrogantly sucker-punching his audience, but from the dawning realization that the strange crimes aren't so much polluting the village as merely crystallizing the hypocritical rot that was always there.

  • For almost two-thirds of its running time, The White Ribbon is flat-out masterful. Haneke populates the screen with a large and fully plausible community, an obvious miniature of the world that nevertheless comes alive through the camera’s love of individuated bodies and faces... Over time, such scenes lose their internal power, as Haneke reveals the sins of his townspeople, making explicit what had been implicit and ramping up misery and abuse.

  • There's a scene in [the film], shot in a single immobile take, where a poor man comes to look at the corpse of his wife, who's just been killed in a sawmill accident. Her upper body is blocked out of view. The man, his head held low, approaches the bed she's been laid on and, in a moment of unknowable misery, becomes obscured. It's at this moment that Haneke relinquishes the aforementioned privilege and it becomes clear that THE WHITE RIBBON is the most openly empathetic film he's ever made.

  • It is in granting so much pain and power to a community, to a group of people—and especially the town’s children—seem and unseen alike that White Ribbon strikes as something new brought to the cinema screen, or, perhaps more accurately, something old reinvested with some of its old power.

  • Part deconstructed mystery and part clinical observation, Haneke's combination of crisp black and white and neutral framing insightfully reflects the spectrum of social division - wealth, age, gender, education, spirituality, moral conscience - that equally serve as historical précis for prewar Germany and contemporary allegory for religious extremism.

  • No one's idea of a cinematic cuddle-bunny, Haneke is as much strategist as filmmaker and more pedagogue than visionary. The White Ribbon is certainly the most beautiful movie he has made—a sort of triumphantly willed Meisterwerk. His use of narrative uncertainty, resembling those in the unsolved mystery at the heart of Caché, may be standard-issue, but there's no denying The White Ribbon's seriousness and unity.

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