The White Ribbon (Das Weiße Band) (5 stars)

The White Ribbon (Das Weiße Band

(15) 143min

Writer/director Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher, Hidden) mainlines the sentiments of fellow Austrians Alfred Adler (the psychiatrist who first formulated ideas of the inferiority complex) and novelist Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach (who wrote of her country folk: ‘We are so vain that we even care for the opinion of those we don’t care for.’) to create a withering portrait by default of pre World War village life in protestant northern Germany.

When an unusual series of cruel events unravel in a small village, the feudalism, cruelty and religious fundamentalism that bind the community are threatened. The narrator and local schoolteacher (Christian Friedel) tries to make sense of it all by carrying out some ineffectual investigations, but the baron (Ulrich Tukur), the sadistic pastor (Burghart Klaußner) and the pederast doctor (Rainer Bock) have their own problems and agendas. Also, shadowing his feeble efforts is unsettling teenager Klara (Maria-Victoria Dragus) and members of the children’s choir.

Working on a far bigger canvas than he has before, Haneke’s ensemble drama depicts a very unhappy and nasty little community. The point, one supposes, is that it was the children of these repressed idiots who went on to empower and procreate for the Third Reich (in looks and by dubious supposition Klara is almost a prototype of the Hitler youth).

Boosted by Haneke regular Christian Berger’s amazing black and white cinematography, The White Ribbon is a remarkable, multilayered achievement; one that will reward repeated viewings and linger long in the mind. Film of the year without a doubt, just go and see it. Please.

Selected release from Fri 13 Nov.

The White Ribbon

  • 5 stars
  • 2009
  • Germany / Austria
  • 2h 23min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Michael Haneke
  • Written by: Michael Haneke
  • Cast: Christian Friedel, Ulrich Tukur, Josef Bierbichler

Featuring the remarkable black and white cinematography of Christian Berger, Haneke's latest film expertly paints a withering portrait of life in a pre-World War German village that is dominated by feudalism and a particularly sadistic breed of religion. An outstanding, multilayered achievement, dripping with nastiness…

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