English Title: The White Ribbon
Original Title: Das weisse Band – Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte
Country: Germany, Austria, France, Italy
Language: German, Italian Polish
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Obviously it is not an effortless film to enjoy, Haneke’s HIDDEN (2005) is one of my favorite films of all time, in spite of that I admire his works, most of his films’ frosty characterizations, restrained accusations are rather uneasy to follow and swallow. So is the case of THE WHITE RIBBON (his Golden Palm winning film in 2009 Cannes), in a completely black-white mode, the film no doubt stands firmly among the best of his magnificent opus.
I found it extremely unsatisfying when the end-credits rolled over, there are tons of questions remain unsolved after 160 minutes while over 30 characters were introduced in the film, for sure Haneke doesn’t want to give us any definite explanations of the crimes happened, the whole film demonstrates a ubiquitous mental abuse among the German village at the time before WWI (especially towards children), which caused abnormality in their thoughts, the power of poisoned minds was so overwhelmingly dominant so that it would ignite the naissance of Nazi among the next generation while a detectable overthrow of religious paternity was under the way.
For me the ace of the film is the camera work by Christian Berger, darkness saturates in every corner of the village, leaves creepiness and shadows on almost every character. The pace is slow but not tedious, several fixed long takes are gripping. There are some excellent performance by Burghart Klaussner (the pastor) and Susanne Lothar (the midwife). Still, it is purely difficult to love this film other than admire it from some distance.
Maybe the hidden truth is not important, as every audience has his own version of comprehension, nonetheless, with such a thorough reticence, I think Haneke does underestimate the needs of his audience this time, connotation can be obscure, meanwhile, the film itself hides too many clues, which is able to catch a title as an individual auteur, but for the reverent Haneke, there is indeed no need to take great pains to do so both for him and his devoted groupies.