04 October 2009
The White Ribbon
dir Michael Haneke
released 13 November
The gifted and controversial Haneke follows up his American remake of Funny Games with this Palme D’Or grabbing psychological thriller. Revealing dark questions of the human condition very much characteristic of the filmmaker’s probing intellect, The White Ribbon is a creepily disturbing psychodrama that effortlessly plays on societies’ fears of abusive authority and hidden evil.
Shot entirely in black and white; all expressionist shadows and brooding menace, the film follows the strange events and apparent accidents that trouble a rural school and farming community in 1913 North Germany. A narrator, (identified later as the young schoolmaster), links the events in the film with Germany’s history in the first half of the 20th century and although not overtly pointed out, it is the rise of fascism that Haneke is concerned with here.
The village is one big cess-pit of fear and paranoia - of abusers and the abused and of hate born of ignorance and out of control authority. A laugh-riot it most certainly is not. But a more high minded and emotionally challenging movie will not be delivered this year. Grueling, intense and displaying steely eyed focus, The White Ribbon marks a high point for modern European cinema.