The White Ribbon (2009) – Micheal Haneke

I’m finishing up the main body of DK Canada’s exceptional The Movie Book, and Haneke’s The White Ribbon is a fantastic film to wrap up the main section of the book.

Set a few short years before the First World War, this Golden Globe winning film is a somber, thoughtful affair on sins, youth, tradition, and the secrets of a small town. Shot in black and white this piece of cinema sees us sliding from home to home, seeing both the public front and the behind closed doors reality of a number of families, all of whom are dealing with the events that seem to be plaguing the village.

There are deaths, accidents, revelations, and acts of revenge, all of which seem to take on a form of punishment, not just for the town, but perhaps for someone in the tiny hamlet and for the terrible things they have done.

The camerawork is fascinating, occasionally moving, but for the most part remaining stationary almost as homage to the films that were being made at the time. Shots linger, never quite wanting the viewer’s attention to turn away from the stark images on the screen.

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At the heart of the mystery of who is doing what, are the town’s children. All of whom seem to know what is going on in more depth than the rest of the village, yet it is the adults who are in charge.

There’s a lot going on in this film as the young characters are held to the strict traditions of the past while wanting to be their own person, and having their own sense of morality that means more to them than the words of the local pastor.

This was the second time I had seen this film. I saw it initially when it was first released, and came away with the same sensation as I did this time. It’s a stark, beautiful film, troubling in its themes and the suggestions of violence (everything, barring two incidents seems to happen off screen) simply leaving us with the fallout of what has happened.

The secrets that fill the village are shocking, and any empathetic viewer will understand why things happened as they do, though we also now that we may have more restraint than those who take action in this film.

This ends up being a fantastic film to wrap up the main body of DK Books’ The Movie Book, and next time I visit this tome, it will be delving into The Directory, a selection of titles that almost made the list and are still definitely worth the watch.

Have you seen this one? No? Check it out, or pick up a copy and find a new to you classic to watch tonight!

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