The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Artificial Eye

Release Date: March 15th, 2010
Certificate (UK): 15
Running Time: 114 minutes

Year of production: 2009

Country of origin: Austria and Germany
Language: German with English subtitles

Writer and director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Rainer Bock, Ulrich Tukur, Burghart Klaußner

The wave of fascism that was sweeping through Germany in the 1930’s must have had a point of origin somewhere further back in the nation’s history.

Set in 1913 and written and directed by Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon is a film that focuses on the austere and often brutal environment of a small German village and school. It not only exposes the cruelty and hypocrisy of adults towards children but also offers an insight into the undercurrents of patriarchy and repression that went on to shape 20th-century Germany.

The White Ribbon

It begins 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. This is followed by a woman who 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 but then the baron’s cabbages are destroyed and later that night his young son Sigi goes missing. They find him tied upside down in a barn after he’d been whipped senseless.

Somewhere else in the village, a newborn baby catches a cold when a window is left open during the 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.

The White Ribbon

Its beautiful acting by a cast of mixed ages, affecting story and superb cinematography all make for a compelling film that continues to play on your mind long after it’s ended. Like with Haneke’s other films, there’s no easy answer or neat end, yet his aim here is clear for all to see.

As a study of the origins of the fascism, it’s fascinating to watch as he explores the repressed environment the children are brought up in, highlighting some of the preconditions that might have been necessary to allow for them as adults later on to embrace Nationalism, but at the same time it’s told with subtly and much beauty.

The White Ribbon

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.