Behind closed doors…
Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon is a lengthy black and white drama set in a small German town in the austere years before World War I. Yet Haneke’s latest is one of his finest works to date. His strength as a filmmaker has always been to focus on the reactions of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, such as in Cache and Funny Games, and this intense character study of villagers besieged by strange events proves mesmerising from the start.
Life in the small community of Eichwald is fairly straightforward; most of the villagers work the land for the wealthy local baron without complaint. But behind closed doors it’s a different story; although espousing the virtues of purity and morality – as signified by the ubiquitous white ribbon – in reality the locals indulge in beatings, affairs, abuse and religious persecution. And when a series of horrific misfortunes occur, including attacks on local children and property, it seems that someone may be fighting back.
The White Ribbon is a story of hardship and misfortune, about the sins of one generation polluting the next, about the loss of innocence and about repressed anger and slow-burning hatred that slowly seeps out over an entire township. It is, perhaps, a small-scale forshadowing of the massive, bloody conflict that is about to play out on the international stage. Yet it’s so beautifully crafted, in terms of the performances, the naturalistic direction and the exquisite visuals, that it can’t help but draw you in. The White Ribbon may present difficult themes and have spiky edges and perhaps could not be described as entertainment but, as a piece of cinema, it is undoubtedly stunning. 5 stars
Unavailable for review, both the Blu-ray and DVD have a UK exclusive interview with Michael Haneke along with the trailer. The Blu-ray release also has a making of, a look at Haneke’s work and a featurette from the film’s screening at the Cannes Film Festival.
Stars Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi
Director Michael Haneke
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Distributor Artificial Eye
Released March 15