The White Ribbon [Blu-ray]
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2010
This is a superb film and worthy of all the praise placed upon it but I'm left scratching my head as to the lack of extras on the DVD version. In fact, the only "extra" to speak of is the trailer. Here is a list of the extras on the Blu-ray version:

Making of The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke: My Life (a 50-minute biopic)
Cannes Film Festival Premiere
An Interview with Michael Haneke

I guess this is Sony's way of telling us have-nots to get off our duffs and go buy one of their Blu-ray players so we can watch their Blu-ray release. Isn't life grand?? The only reason I rated the film so highly is because it was indeed an epic film but if I had my druthers I'd give Sony's DVD version a big fat zero.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2010
Some people are drawn to negatives...they like examining the metaphoric train wrecks of life or dutifully exploring the empty space in the glass half-full. And SOME people can't stand to be forced to join in on what they see as such a pointless journey. Well, Michael Haneke, the writer/director of "Das Weisse Band" ("The White Ribbon" in English) seems hell-bent on taking his viewers on such a ride. And he does so resolutely in this movie as well as several others like "Caché" (which was interesting) and "La Pianiste" (which was WAY bad in my book...as in "bad" bad, not "cool" bad).

And for understanding where this review is coming from , I'm kind of an in-the-middle type...I don't mind pondering minuses, but like to give the positives equal billing because they're both a part of life. For me it's not hard to see the glass as half empty AND half full...and so it goes for me anyway.

The movie? An old, small, isolated, pre-WWI German town structured around a wealthy land-owning Baron, experiences a few suspicious tragedies (deaths, torture, etc), and the story explores how some of the town explore, ignore and deal with the events.

If you're someone who likes their movies to provide nice, neatly packaged answers, this isn't the movie for you. Life too often leaves us grasping for meaning and resolution (and frustrated by that lack of it), so most of us aren't crazy about watching a movie that just leaves us hanging. Bad things happen in this movie (The White Ribbon), people interact, and we're left wondering the who's, what's, why's and how's of the events that unfolded. There's very little bonding or empathy with any of the characters in this film. There are frequently no heroes to root for (a VERY big problem I had watching the jealous, control-freak, semi-sadomasochistic piano teacher in "La Pianiste"), and understandably, the average watcher isn't going to get too emotionally invested in this film (and trust me, the average viewer is DYING to get emotionally invested in a film or they wouldn't make cheese-ball Harlequin fare like "Letters to Juliet" which I was forced to watch on a recent trans-Atlantic flight). And many of the viewers who DO get emotionally invested in this movie will probably be upset by the lack of OBVIOUS return on the investment when it's over.

BUT, notice I said "OBVIOUS" return on investment. This movie does strongly hint at a few possible answers. We know who the perps likely were, we have probable reasons why they did it, and it's fairly well spelled-out that the behavior of the adults substantially affected the behavior of the children in the town. So, there is SOME resolution, but it's not clearly and cleanly delivered in a satisfying way, and other aspects of the story are left conspicuously dangling, which is understandably frustrating to some.

I actually mostly liked this movie (to the tune of a "barely-4-star" rating) having experienced small-town German life. Through some of the older neighbors we got to know, we developed a decent feel for the cliquishness and frequently small-minded mentality that can exist in a little village. If my village was representative of average German small-town life, plenty of Germans from the WW2 generation still have a superiority complex that they're mostly not even aware of, and the church and obedience were (and still are quite often) central themes in their little village tribes. We tend to look at the tribe-mentality in places like the Middle East and Africa as archaic, but it wasn't long ago that most of the western world was still living in isolated farming communities (often quite tribal in structure), with small-town quirks, and a church-dominated social structure.

Is it a perfect movie? Nah...but it is well-made, has great acting and cinematography, and has something that might make you think. For me, it WAS sort of like a Twilight Zone episode, but one that contained no chance of redemption or "lessons learned" for characters in the movie or the viewers watching it (as TZ episodes frequently did). It's just not an up-lifting, "feel good" movie, so if that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"The White Ribbon" is a kind of extended parable that has no clear resolution. An older man (Ernst Jacobi) recalls the strange events in a German village where he was employed as a schoolteacher in his younger days, just before World War I. He believes what he observed there might hold a clue to socio-political trends in Germany in subsequent decades. He says it all began with the Doctor's riding accident in the summer of 1913. The Doctor and his horse were felled by a trip wire, placed by persons unknown. Soon after, a woman dies in an accident in the saw mill. Just as the villagers have put these events behind them, they are shocked by a crime more sinister and disturbing. Horror gives way to suspicion and distrust. Even the Baron cannot insulate his family from the malice, brutality, and "perverse acts of revenge" that seem to have no clear cause or end.

The crimes are upsetting, but their purpose is vague. That contributes to the feeling of unease. It's hardly surprising that the village is a little Peyton Place, where behavior behind closed doors defies the strict discipline and religious devotion of the townspeople. The Doctor (Rainer Bock), Pastor (Burghart Klaussner), and Baron (Ulrich Tukor) are prominent men in the community. But the Doctor is abusive toward his family and mistress. The Puritanical Pastor berates and humiliates his children for their imperfections but is ill-equipped to deal with serious transgressions. The Baron is careless and willfully ignorant of the needs of his farmers and his family. They're not much to admire. And a group of children, led by the Pastor's pubescent daughter Klara (Maria-Victoria Dragus) and son Martin (Leonard Proxauf), are always present where tragedy strikes.

What does it all mean? No one seems to have any clear idea. A clairvoyant young woman who warns of impending tragedy is at first ignored, then blamed, for the act. That's an obvious metaphor, but "The White Ribbon" asks more questions than it answers. The stark white-out cinematography, the snow that blankets the village, the white ribbons that the Pastor forces his children to wear are a show of innocence that the whole village wears on its sleeve. It hides a great deal of barbarism and, apparently, a genuinely sinister element. But is it the crimes that are supposed to horrify us? Or the reaction to them? Or the lack of reaction? Surely, the villagers' hypocrisy is commonplace. And what do the children know? Is "The White Ribbon" thoughtful or specious? It's strength is that its mystery and its provocative themes are enough to keep the audience asking those questions for 2 1/2 hours and to get people talking about it afterward. In German with optional English subtitles.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have enjoyed all the Michael Haneke films I have seen so far, and this is perhaps his best effort yet, but it is hard to tell really just how good because the film is black and white with all the old problems of black and white foreign films and white subtitles. The font is smaller than usual, which isn't a big problem on a large screen, but much of the background is either white or light gray making the legibility difficult. Sometimes I had to give up trying to read dialogue and either guess at plot develpment or just wait for the next scene shot with darker subject matter. With their small size, even outlining the subtitles is black didn't help; still illegible much of the time. Someone should redo this rather fine release and reissue it properly.

While picture quality is quite adequate, it didn't come up to the Blu-ray standards possible for a film made today. Perhaps it was transferred from a PAL video onto Blu-ray, who knows.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2011
"The White Ribbon" was shot in black and white; in a flat, deadpan style. Upon reading several other Amazon reviews of this DVD, I observed that even if the reviewer didn't care for the film, they did admire Christian Berger's brilliant cinematography. The cumulative effect of tone and pacing is subtle, as if the director (Michael Haneke) did everything he could to make a suspense/horror film, without resorting to the use of any suspense/horror picture cliches. This film is a testament to the corrosive power of family and societal secrets. Its characters live in an oblivion of denial, in a village where certain key male authority figures wield power with an iron fist. For the most part, the perpetrators of the various heinous events occurring in this picture are not revealed; these incidents are presented to the viewer "after the fact". On occasion, there is a silent, visual implication of involvement; for example, the scene where the boys watch the burning barn from their bedroom window; the group of children gathering outside the doors or windows of various homes. Subliminal evidence of the "revenge of the abused" is directly and/or indirectly hinted at. But ultimately, the villagers are working very hard at appearing to be innocent (the white ribbon, after all, stands for innocence).

In Chapter Two of this DVD, a child attempts to lift the veil covering the face of a dead woman. He is then comforted by a man sitting nearby in the dark; watching this scene, I suddenly feared that the father was sexually abusing the child. Although the plot is easy enough to follow, in that particular scene, I wasn't 100% sure who the dead woman was, who the child was, and who the man sitting in the dark was (the director purposely kept him "faceless"). And so I assumed that those characters were the doctor, his former wife (now dead), and the boy was his son. The point being--whether or not one knows who these characters are, the effect of this scene is chilling; it is the most disturbing one in the entire picture. Following that scene, the older sister of a little boy explains to him that everyone must die; he struggles to understand mortality. That is probably the most touching scene in the film.

There are two characters in "The White Ribbon" who are equally abhorrent in their roles as abusers; the Doctor and the Pastor. The Pastor is bigger monster of the two, as he hides behind his mask of moral superiority. The Doctor, although reprehensible, is at least aware that he is a monster. When the Schoolteacher (who, along with his fiance Eva, are in the minority of villagers that could be described as "good") confronts the Pastor near the end of the film, the Pastor warns the Schoolteacher not to reveal his theory about who has been committing the crimes in the village. It's as if the Pastor metaphorically becomes a black-winged demon in that moment. And of course, the Schoolteacher realizes by this point that there is no place for noble intentions in a village that is suffocating in a stew of its own vices. So often in life, the worst among us are perceived to be the best; what is evil is mistaken for good, and vice versa. Although I think this is a good film, and one that gave me the chills as I reflected back on its scenes--I still wish that Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist" had won the 2009 Palme d'Or at Cannes, instead of "The White Ribbon".

Stephen C. Bird, Author of "Hideous Exuberance"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 6, 2011
I rented "The White Ribbon" solely on the basis of it's nomination for a Best Foreign Language Oscar. That category has almost always worked for me. I read the film's synopsis and it sounded reasonably interesting. I was aprehensive about the length of the movie so I started watching it one night with the expectation to finish watching it the next night. It was hard to tear myself away from it and I was anxious to see the rest of it the next evening. I would describe it as one of a few films I've seen that comes across as a serious movie while also giving you goose bumps. This black and white movie was excellently filmed and the acting was superb even with a large cast of children. It tells of a series of accidents and tragedies in a small German village on the Eve of WWI. That aspect turns out to be more important that you might suspect but I can't exactly tell you why. Let's just said WWI serves as an excellent point of departure leaving a mystery unsolved.

The characters are well-presented and we sympathize with some, detest a few others, and serously wonder about some of the rest. The narrator serves as a source of balance but he, too, does not know what is really going on. I was sorry for the way "The White Ribbon" ended but I gradually began to realize that the ending gave it a much greater impact. (Will we see "Return to White Ribbon"? Hopefully not but I'm sure many would like to see it). Unfortunately, after watching the movie, I read a lot of comments about the film being an introductary explanation of the Holocaust. The professional review cited above says that the director, Michael Haneke, often leaves his purposes undefined. So why the great leap that so many have taken???? Let's get this straight, I have seen dozens and dozens of movies of that generation and other generations where the definition of loving your children seems to be the coldly calculated way you administer discipline. The films I recall took place in many countries but the feeling I always seemed to get was that, despite his many faults, Dr. Benjamin Spock did us kids a big favor. There was never any suggestion that there, but for the grace of God, goes another generation bent on cultural destruction and racial annihilation. Enjoy this tense drama and skip the grandiosity of its' suggested purpose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Michael Haneke's latest may well be his greatest. It's a masterful depiction of the unraveling of a village, in the years leading up to the first World War. It's a dark film, but I don't think it's bleak. It is narrated by a hopeful young teacher, whose own sights are raised above the pettiness and insensitivity and unspoken class rivalries that lead the villagers to be mutually suspicious. At first it is his lofty ideals, his generous spirit and the fact that while he is not naive he nevertheless expects his peers and students to treat one another with basic decency. Later it is because he is falling in love. Nevertheless, the story he tells, from a vantage point of age, and likely in the aftermath of the horrors of another even darker war, is a harrowing one.

It all starts when the local doctor is thrown from his horse, by a hidden wire set deliberately to harm him. There is, later, a fatal accident, and subsequent acts of apparently unmotivated cruelty, and at the same time motivations for such crimes begin to mount. As villagers begin to suspect one another, we as the audience cannot help but suspect nearly every one of some kind of guilt, if not direct complicity with the crimes; and our attention is drawn increasingly to an outwardly respectful and pretty young woman, daughter of the local pastor and on the brink of communion, who seems to be something of a ringleader to the children.

Haneke is too clever (and perhaps too perverse) to resolve easily the many tensions that make watching this an unsettling experience, something akin to intellectual horror. It should not be a spoiler for anyone who's seen any of Haneke's films that ambiguities and uncertainties remain at the end. At the same time, there are enough moments of light and sympathy, and occasional but rare comic relief, especially in the blossoming romance between the narrator and the nanny to the local baron, that the film manages to sustain intrigue and enjoyment, such that the difficulty of the subject doesn't overwhelm the experience. Like most of Haneke's films, The White Ribbon manages to provoke and intrigue while provoking questions without easy answers. This film is perhaps closest in spirit and feel to some of Ingmar Bergman's early emotional dramas, exploring religion and faith in the context of interpersonal conflict, such as his Through a Glass Darkly Trilogy. The cinematography is masterful, in gorgeous black and white. The alternation of delicacy and austerity in the imagery alone makes this a delight to watch. Highly recommended for lovers of challenging and inventive cinema.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2010
I think it was back in November when I first saw a trailer for the Michael Haneke film Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon). Initially the film appeared uninteresting but when I saw a trailer for it again in December I really paid attention to it and I thought to myself as soon as it opens up in Minneapolis, I will go see the film.

I recently went to see The White Ribbon this month and I found myself constantly thinking about it after I left the theater. The time period of the film takes place just a year before World War I in a small German village. The village is plagued by a series of strange events that leads to human suffering. First the village's doctor is seriously injured when his horse trips over a thin wire. The doctor has to spend a lengthy time in the hospital. Another strange incident involves the baron's son who goes missing and is later found bound and tortured. A similar incident involving the midwife's mentally handicapped son occurs. Also a suicide, a barn burns down, and a young boy is restrained to his bed for admitting he self pleasuring himself happens through out the film. A lot of these strange events (not all though) somehow involves some of the children in the village led by the pastor's eldest daughter Klara.

What makes this film so compelling and engaging is that the filmmaker does make this film a who done it? type of mystery but rather focus on human nature and just the levels of cruelty that some people (young and old) are willing to go. The one thing about the film that I didn't particularly care for was the narration. I could have easily done without that but I suppose if the film did not have the teacher's narration (when he is older) it would have left a void in the film. At times the film prodded a little too slowly but overall I enjoyed the film immensely.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2010
Michael Hanake is nothing if not singular. The few films of his I have seen have all been different and odd. None have towed the line of mainstream cinema and White Ribbon is no exception. Set in Germany just prior to the outbreak of WWI a normally quiet, small town experiences a series of unsettling, violent events. Being a typical close knit, rural community, the residents are at a loss as to who would perpetrate the brutal crimes and why.

Hanake does not handle the plot as a whodunit but rather has the viewer engage the town itself. We meet several of the families and watch them in their day to day activities as well as their handling of some of the unpleasant matters that arise from time to time.

This is a very unsettling film. The weird, disturbing events mixed with the quite "proper" setting mixed with the fact that the events aren't the focus of the proceedings leaves the viewer on edge. That they are not fully explained in the end really puts the capper on things. I found myself running as many scenes as I could remember through my mind to try and put all the pieces together.

It's a great looking film. The gorgeous black and white cinematography, in conjunction with the sets, costumes, hairstyles, etc., really makes the viewers feel as though they are seeing something real. The dialogue is spot on as well. One really gets the sense of the formality of the society of the time.

This is one heck of a movie and, at least in my case, demands more than one viewing to soak in everything that is going on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I watched this movie thinking this would be a good movie to show a class of German II sudents. The subtitle is, afterall, a "German Children's story" and I wouldn't worry too much about too much violence, gratuitous sex or vulgarities. I was wrong. What is depicted here is much worse with the inuendoes and implications and is best left for a more advanced college German class due to the subject matter.

This is a good movie, though when seen as a whole. A small German village is repressed by its own people, run by cruel and demanding patriarchs who control the women and children and handicapped. A lot of cruel things happen to the villagers here and no one is innocent in the long run as the fear is morphed into a secretive society determined to commit vengeful reprisals on those who have repressed them. Critics say this movie depicts the kind of society that later embraced National Socialism. I can see the connection here, yet I also don't feel sympathy for those who later become the abusers.

The acting and directing of this movie is very good. However, this is a slow-paced movie that requires an open and tolerant mind. Its effect will haunt you.
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