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The White Ribbon [Blu-ray]
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On the eve of World War I, strange accidents in a small Protestant village in Northern Germany involve the children and teenagers of a choir run by the schoolteacher and their families. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery as these events gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual.
Like a Twilight Zone episode directed by Antonioni, The White Ribbon weaves an unsettling and enigmatic spell. Michael Haneke's film is set just before World War I in a village in northern Germany, where a series of strange occurrences take place over several months. These occurrences are sinister and cruel and often involve the children of the village--not merely as victims (although child abuse seems to be a far-from-isolated event) but also as perpetrators. At least that's the way it appears. Nothing is completely spelled out in Haneke's scheme, which hints and insinuates and thoroughly gets under the viewer's skin over the course of 144 edgy minutes. We might notice the children are of an age that will make them mature participants in the horror of Germany in the 1930s and '40s, but even this is left as an unemphasized point. Since Haneke is an expert at denying explicit conclusions for his projects (see also Caché and Funny Games for more on the subject), we shouldn't be surprised that he withholds the answers to the questions he poses, or that the film is even more powerful because of this withholding. Adding to the effect is Christian Berger's Oscar-nominated black-and-white cinematography, which has a ghostly quality appropriate to the topic. In the end, all the strange happenings of the village are absorbed into the town's rhythm of life--which might be the most disturbing conclusion of all. --Robert Horton
Stills from The White Ribbon (Click for larger image)
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- Aspect Ratio : 1.85:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medR R (Restricted)
- Product Dimensions : 6.75 x 5.3 x 0.35 inches; 2.4 Ounces
- Item model number : 7442466
- Director : Michael Haneke
- Media Format : Blu-ray, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Run time : 2 hours and 24 minutes
- Release date : June 29, 2010
- Dubbed: : English
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : Sony Pictures Classics
- ASIN : B00386OWUC
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #67,748 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Our story takes place as an admittedly unreliable flashback; our narrator states that he pieced together the story through rumor and assumptions. A small village in Germany in the early 1900's is the setting. Right away we are witness to a horrible riding accident: the village doctor is tripped up on his horse by a wire strung between two trees on his usual riding route. Several other violent incidents follow including the beating of a young boy, but there are no suspects for these brutal crimes. Even worse, the villagers don't seem terribly motivated to find the culprits. We then are introduced, on more intimate level, to the villagers themselves and then the horrible really starts to flow! The town Steward beats his son while in the grips of an explosive rage. The Preacher beats his children in the name of piousness. Don't get me started on the Doctor! The only island of human goodness in the film is in the form of the schoolteacher and his sweet courtship of the Baron's nanny. But the teacher is our narrator, so maybe he's just whitewashing his own role in this scenario. Darn unreliable narrators! On the upside, the movie is absolutely beautiful to look at, even when you can't quite look. The black and white cinematography not only fixes our story firmly in the past but also makes some of the horrors we witness a little easier to look at. The director does not rely on crazy camera angles or tricks to tell the story; Realism is the word of the day here. The scenes usually play out in only one or two different shots depending on the number of characters in the scene. There is no traditional background music; all sounds and music that we hear feel natural. The actors in the film look like "real people", they speak like "real people", they move like "real people"; amazing acting throughout this film. These elements come together to form a truly believable feeling when viewing, you lose yourself in the unfolding of events.
The characterizations, especially of the leading citizens of the village were very interesting. The men in positions of power were never referred to by name, only by title; bestowing on them the mantle of archetype which allows them to be completely awful within the scope of their role. That being said, there are not many "bad guys" or "good guys" in this story. Most of our characters feel very human: conflicted, unsure, imperfect. Which brings me to the children: there is a great cinematic tradition of mobs of evil children in films. Don't think for a second that our director will make it that easy for you!
It is interesting to ponder the narrator's assertion at the start of the film that the events of the film may "clarify things that happened in our country". One thinks of the rise of National Socialism in the form of Nazis, the wholesale slaughter of millions of innocent people, etc... I have watched this film several times and I think I come away with a different take on it every time; I will leave it up to you, prospective viewer, to come to your own conclusion. I know that there are many people who do not like movies with open- ended conclusions, and to them I say: This is NOT the film for you! This movie seems to raise many more questions than it answers but, if you don't mind some mental heavy lifting, the rewards are great.
are abused and suppressed. By the standards of that culture on the eve of World War I, unquestioning obedience to the school teacher who ran the choir and the adults in families was mandatory. As a consequence, punishment was the expected ritual. However the twist in all of this is the mystery at the center which reveals all of the youngsters - both teenagers and children - are associated with the choir. It should be noted
those of nobility and privilege are not exempted?! A real dividend for the serious viewer, is the content of the entire production reals a culture
that disappeared at the end of World War I, and contributed to the rise of Nazism with the desire for a strong man in tandem with the revitalization of unquestioning obedience for authority. With those thoughts included, the unexplained accidents - do not seem so strange
in that village. I must admit my own prejudice, because I had German Grandparents who were Lutheran but also had a penchant for
With its atmospheric black and white photography conveying a bleached austerity reminiscent of the great Danish filmmaker, Carl Dreyer, THE WHITE RIBBON is set in a fictitious small town in Northern Germany in 1913 and relates mysterious brutal incidents involving its inhabitants up until the outbreak of World War I. In this film, called by one critic, "THE VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED as directed by Ingmar Bergman," Haneke portrays an authoritarian society where children are subjected to rigid rules and harsh punishments, and adults display different types of paternal power patterns. It is told somewhat like a fairy tale peopled by village icons: the farmer, the pastor, the schoolteacher, the doctor, the baron, etc. and their families -- and we sense the beginnings of fascism in Germany that will lead to the takeover by the Nazis.
The white ribbon of the title refers to what children are forced to wear around their upper arms as a punishment, something we can see becoming red armbands displaying swastikas twenty years later. And rather than forcing pretentious symbolism, Haneke employs concrete human emotional conflict that disturbs and moves the viewers in a way of which only the greatest art is capable.
THE WHITE RIBBON is a film for discerning viewers, one that demands several viewings. It is an amazing magisterial work by a great filmmaker at the peak of his powers.
Top reviews from other countries
Germany's ambitions were thwarted and blocked both by history and geography. The country was hemmed in. There was nowhere to expand. How could it take what it considered its rightful place on the world stage? War became the answer, first as policy, then as actuality. It had worked in 1870-71 during the Franco-Prussian War. Germany pried Alsace and Lorraine away from France in the aftermath of the Prussian victory. But two French provinces were nothing compared to the high seas and to potential continental possessions abroad. So the Kaiser began to build a navy that could rival that of Britain's while the architects of war in the German army were hard at work. The Schlieffen Plan to encircle Paris and bring France to its knees had been formulated by 1905, nine years before the outbreak of war. Germany was preparing for its liberation from the status of second-rank nation and war would be the way to obtain that liberation.
This is the cultural backdrop — social, psychological, political — to The White Ribbon. The film does not deal overtly with politics. It doesn't have to, as the national seeds of it are embedded in the local culture of the village.
It is not a happy village. No one smiles, laughs or plays in it, not even the children. Or they try to play, but this is not encouraged by the adults. Tradition, authority and rigid rules maintain discipline, ensuring order and preserving the hierarchy of power. Men of course are in charge, not women. Women never go to war. It's always the men who kill one another.
On the surface: tidiness, order, routine, obedience, everything and everyone in its place, bringing stability. But appearances don't always match reality. Mysterious events begin to overtake the village: accidents, disappearances, deaths. Malign, unidentifiable forces are at work, afflicting the village. But we who live in the present, not then in 1913, know what they are and portend. The storm is coming and we can almost hear the artillery shells exploding on the Western Front.
The white ribbon, tied round the upper arm of a child, marks out its wearer as sinful. Some violation has occurred and violations cannot be tolerated. They are forbidden, a concept the German mind absolutely loves. The white ribbon is like Hawthorne's scarlet letter or the yellow Star of David that Hitler so sentimentally adored. The malefactor, the outcast will be marked and noticed. There is no escape.
The village, a small replica of Germany, is facing moral breakdown. Facing but not facing, as it were. Denial, justification, lies, hypocrisy. Though the war has not yet happened, we discern already the contours of its outcome. Devoid of humanity and humane values, the village is already defeated. The adults have failed their children — children who will grow up to fight another war, the second an even greater obscenity than the first.
The film is a parable about the roots of evil (so said the film's director, Michael Haneke), so I have used that phrase as the subject heading of this review.
Haneke must be applauded for his artistry and humanity. His film, a black-and-white masterpiece, will one day be hailed as a classic. If it hasn't yet, it's only because most great things take time.
The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes during the year of its release (2009), so the judges there understood what they were seeing. Anyone interested in fascism, the Great War, or both should feel thankful that this brilliant film has been made. It is dark and disturbing, but vital.
village in Germany, the people that live there have a hard life working on the land, there are various
central figures, the Doctor, the Pastor, and the teacher, very sinister happenings take place but who
is responsible that is the question?
This film is not an easy watch however if you like films with great depth that make you think
long after you have viewed this is the film for you.
I would also add if you are interested in photography this is an added bonus as it is breathtaking
in its format.
Michael Haneke states in his included interview the events could have taken place in any (European country) at that time, and it must be common knowledge that rural communities in the UK were still in service (my grandparents were) so keep that in mind. There is no connection between the white ribbon and nazi armbands, simply that on the eve of World War the world of our ancestors was about to change for ever.
Brilliantly directed, cast and acted, I like Hanekes work.