Saturday, February 27, 2010

The White Ribbon

The children are gathered around the dinner table with empty plates in front of them. Together, they nervously sit as their stern father begins to chastise them. He says for staying out late and worrying their mother and himself half to death, they will go to bed hungry and then be beaten the following day. Furthermore they will have white ribbons attached to themselves, to serve as a reminder of innocence and purity.
     This early scene plays out like most scenes in The White Ribbon: intense and haunting, with sinister undertones which may reach the surface at any moment. Michael Haneke's dark film opens up on the eve of WWI in a small town in Germany. The town's school teacher informs us as the narrator of the strange events taking place in town, of which no one has an explanation and everyone believes are purely coincidental. Also the strange occurrences seem to have something to do with the children, the same children among which some may grow up to commit Nazi atrocities (notice the white ribbon on the young boy's arm in the above picture, which may resemble another possible armband in the future). Not all is right among the adult's in the community as well and many of the townspeople carry secret sins of their own. How is their behavior and discipline methods reflected in their children's actions.
     This is one of those films that makes you think and think and think some more. It is a dark and difficult film, filmed in glorious black and white that you will want to read into and learn about. It could also leave you feeling sick to your stomach or angry or upset. There are no easy answers and my take in the second paragraph isn't necessarily the correct one. However it does what great films do in that it makes you think for yourself.