Pin It
Favorite

The White Ribbon 

click to enlarge art15343.jpg

You know those dour German schoolmasters of a century ago who caned their pupils for the slightest offense? Well, those school kids grew up to be sadistic little boot-lickers in search of a scapegoat. We call them Nazis.

Summing up director Michael Haneke’s Das weisse Band that way is simplistic, of course — there have been plenty of repressive societies, and they didn’t all end up worshiping swastikas — but it suggests a possible explanation for an unsettling, mysterious, compelling film.

Our narrator is an elderly man, once the nerdy young schoolmaster (Christian Friedel) whose wooing of a fresh-faced girl provides scant happiness among the town’s disciplinarians. For Haneke’s village is filled with patriarchs who figure that women and children, if only they did as they were told, might turn out to be nearly as useful as oxen.

Haneke’s languorous shots sketch the low of rural life: this happens and that happens, and then this other inexplicable thing happens, and suddenly the implication hits and you realize just how sick and unhappy these people are. (Oscar-nominated cinematographer Christian Berger shot in color, then drained away all the hues to produce judgmental black and white.)

Haneke has coached subtle acting from his cast. with unsure gestures and darting eyes, for example, Leonie Benesch conveys shyness and desire as the teenage would-be wife. When confronted with an unexpected act of generosity, the lips on Burghart Klaussner’s stone-faced pastor part as if to speak words of thanks, then return to their customary pout. And Haneke apparently searched through thousands of children to ind the ones who could alternate between crying and creepy. (His subtitle, after all, is “a German children’s story.”) The authority figures try to be reassuring. “The world won’t collapse,” says the smug patriarch to the disappointed suitor. “The world won’t collapse,” says the town’s doctor (Rainer Bock) — right after he delivers one of the ugliest, most humiliating rejections of another human being you’ll ever overhear.

But they’re wrong. Their world was collapsing all around them; they just couldn’t see it. a world war was about to erupt, and there’d be another one after that. (Rated R)

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • White Lies
  • White Lies

    Directed by comedian Jordan Peele, the thriller Get Out is scarily satirical
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Tall, Dark and Tiresome
  • Tall, Dark and Tiresome

    The Fifty Shades sequel delivers even more boring eroticism than the original
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Alienation Building
  • Alienation Building

    A Cure for Wellness brings operatic craziness sure to irritate audiences
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Spy vs. Spy

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. carves out a unique space in a crowded espionage marketplace
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • A Hike Becomes a Death March
  • A Hike Becomes a Death March

    A Walk in the Woods lacks a cinematic smart-ass
    • Sep 2, 2015

Comments


Comments are closed.

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
50th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

50th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival @ University of Idaho

Feb. 23-25

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Michael Bowen

Most Commented On

  • Eyes on the Prize

    Filmmaker Justin Whiteman's documentary offers a nuanced portrait of Spokane boxing guru Rick Welliver
    • Jan 26, 2017
  • Check it Out

    A dozen films from this year's festival that caught our eye
    • Jan 26, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Spy vs. Spy

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. carves out a unique space in a crowded espionage marketplace
    • Aug 12, 2015
  • A Hike Becomes a Death March
  • A Hike Becomes a Death March

    A Walk in the Woods lacks a cinematic smart-ass
    • Sep 2, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation