Thursday, April 15, 2010

The White Ribbon

At the start of "The White Ribbon" the narrator tells us that this is a story of strange events he doesn't fully understand but feels they explain what happened to Germany in the 20th century. If you were late finding your seat and missed this bit you'd think you were watching a particularly convoluted series of revenge mysteries in a small uptight north German village, where the most high tech thing in the village is the Baron's bicycle.

The narrator is the school teacher in a village where the biggest employer is the local Baron who employs most of the small village during harvest time. A fatal accident and a series of attacks (most of which look like revenge attacks though it not always clear who carried them out and why) disturb the life of the village. As events unfold we get to know various people's unsavoury secrets. Despite appearances this village is far from idyllic.

Inexplicably the children of the village seem to know more about what is going on than the adults, though they don't let on what. It seems that I was not alone in being reminded of Village of the Damned. But this film is full of red herrings, and I am sure most people will feel cheated by the end, as the director Michael Haneke is deliberately subverting our expectations of how films should work.

In addition to all the mystery, violence and secrets there is a cute love story between the school teacher and the Baron's children's young nanny, including a priceless meet the family scene.

I suspect everyone left the cinema with a different idea of how (or if) the film tied in with German history. That said, it is a very nicely made film -- filmed in colour apparently but turned into harsh but beautiful black and white during post-production.

Watch trailer here.

Ian's rating 3/5

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