The White Ribbon (15)

Written and directed by Michael Haneke
Screening at FACT from 13th November 2009

Reviewed by Nadia Baha

Michael Haneke’s new film The White Ribbon, winner of the Palme D‘Or in Cannes, is what I would expect of this director – brilliant and disturbing at the same time.

A little village in northern Germany. Life is quiet, nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all, until the day when the doctor has a riding accident. Then strange things start to happen – accidents, violence, abuse – bit by bit, more and more atrocities come to light, and show how cruel and destructive people in the village are. You scratch on the surface and find lies, bigotry, disrespect, immorality and plain inhumanity in the homes of the pastor, the baron, the doctor and the steward.

The whole story is narrated by the schoolteacher years later, and at first this gives the impression of hearing a fairytale. The film is entirely in black and white which adds to the gloomy and horrendous things that go on in the village.

It is a masterpiece of cinema, a play with light and shadow, not only a portrait of the time (before and until the FIRST World War) but also a timeless film about how people can be and treat others just because they are wealthy, more powerful or simply of the male gender. It is a film about obedience and repression, fear and hierarchy. When you are poor you have no rights, when you are rich you are always right and no-one is allowed to question you.

The film might be set in the past but the problems are very modern and won’t be solved easily. The mystery in The White Ribbon isn’t solved in the film, as usual with Michael Haneke, it is down to us to think about it ourselves.

Printer friendly page

Sorry Comments Closed