The White Ribbon (2009)

The White Ribbon (2009)

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release Date: Oct 2th, 2010
Running Time: 2 hours, 24 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: German with English subtitles

The White Ribbon, or as it’s known in German, Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, is a film written and directed by Michael Haneke (Caché, Time of the Wolf).

The story is about a small German town terrorised by a series of strange and malicious incidents in the months leading up to WW1. Shot in beautiful black and white, we begin with the local doctor (Rainer Bock) who breaks his arm and collar bone when someone places a trip wire on the path he rides his horse along everyday. Elsewhere in the village, a woman falls to her death in a sawmill factory when she walks on rotten floorboards. Her family are devastated and the eldest is outraged that his father allows the mill’s owner, the Baron (Ulrich Tukur) to go unpunished.

The incidents are put aside as the harvest draws near. The baron’s cabbages are destroyed and later that night his young son Sigi is missing. The find him tied upside down in a barn with his buttocks exposed. The boy had been whipped senseless. Somewhere else in the village, a newborn baby catches a cold when a window is left open at night. In another household, the pastor (Burghart Klaußner) berates his children for small offences and ties his eldest son’s hands to the bed frame when he confesses to the sin of masturbation. He ties a white ribbon on them to remind them of the purity and innocence they once had.

The White Ribbon is a compelling study of the origins of the fascism that would grow to sweep over Germany in the years after the Great War. Haneke explores this idea with the repressed environment the children are brought up in. They face abuse, cruelty, and violence and experience the contrast between their parents’ poverty and the baron’s wealth first hand when there is no food on their table at night. The White Ribbon highlights some of the preconditions which might have been necessary to allow for them as adults later on to embrace the ideas sold to them by the rising Nationalism, but at the same time the story is told subtly and beautifully.

The White Ribbon is currently showing at the NFT until October 13th 2010 and is released by Artificial Eye.

Official Site

At the end of The White Ribbon, as a viewer, you are left to come to your decisions about what you have seen. They story does not give an answer, but it leaves you with questions and the rest is up to you. Are the children the perpetrators of these acts of violence? Are they acting out from what they have experienced themselves? Who would they become after they have experienced war?

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