THE WHITE RIBBON (2009)


(2-20-10)

 Greetings again from the darkness. There have been many films with troubled communities: The Village, Wicker Man, Children of the Corn, and Stepford Wives to name a few. None of these compare to the pre-World War I rural German village that director Michael Haneke plops us into.

Haneke is the master of keeping the viewer guessing and never really allowing us a clean solution to the mysteries he presents. Did you figure out what motivated the cruelty from the boys in Funny Games? Did you ever really figure out who or why the family was being videotaped in Cache? The same holds true here.  Haneke seems to be obsessed with evil and ambiguity … two very intriguing subjects for film.

The story is told by the voice-over from the school teacher many years later. We only see the village and the residents as “things” happen – through the recollections of the teacher. Haneke presents many suspects, but no answers to all of the “accidents” and foul play that occurs. We witness only the aftermath and the distrust of the close community.

The film is up for Best Foreign Film and the stark, bleak, black & white look will put you on edge and create a feeling of discomfort, even in the somewhat happiest moments of the film. No doubt it will frustrate those who need a clean wrap-up, but those who enjoy discussion and debate will need an extra cup of coffee afterward to go through all the what-ifs.

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