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The White Ribbon [Blu-ray]

4.0 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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)

Special Features

Making of The White Ribbon
My Life
Cannes Film Festival Premiere
An Interview with Michael Haneke

Product Details

  • Directors: Michael Haneke
  • Format: Blu-ray, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
  • DVD Release Date: June 29, 2010
  • Run Time: 144 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00386OWUC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,050 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The White Ribbon [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" could be considered a mystery in that things happen for no apparent reason. The Doctor (Rainer Bock) breaks his arm after falling off his horse, which tripped over a wire strung between two trees. Not long after, someone abducts the eldest son of the Baron (Ulrich Tukur); he isn't found until the next morning, at which point it's discovered that he had been bound and beaten with a cane. A barn owned by the Pastor (Burghart Klaußner) is burned to the ground. The mentally challenged son of the Midwife (Susanne Lothar) is viciously attacked and almost blinded. Why is all of this happening? Are they acts of revenge? Are they punishments for the sin of weakness? Are they the beginnings of war, intolerance, and terrorism? Your guess is as good as mine. This movie isn't about solutions.

What is it about, then? The story takes place in the days before World War I, when authority was not questioned and life was lived according to much simpler routines. The setting is a German farming community, which has maintained stability by not upsetting the "natural order"; it was expected that the Baron would own the land, the men would have control over their women and children, and the peasants would not have the same rights as their superiors. The Pastor, for example, raises his children not to love God so much as fear Him, and he continuously instills the idea that they must feel guilty for everything that they do. So as to remind them of the path of righteousness from which they have strayed, he ties a white ribbon onto their arms - a symbol of purity.

But in spite of outward appearances, purity is not something to be found behind closed doors.
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Or it should - for Best Foreign Film. The best way to describe it is to think of Bergman's "The Virgin Spring" updated to a small German Protestant town immediately before World War I. The film's is shot in austere black and white. One image might be the raw intense power of two candles burning...this will change...to a mob burning down a barn later in the movie. It is all very unsettling and that is the raw power of the film.

Ostensibly the film is a story of accidents, deaths, suicides happening without explanation in this insulated religious village. Some can be accounted for by revenge and despair but others appear to have no explanation at all except that a cancer of distrust, hatred, repression, and (even)meanness is descending on the town. As we know (historically) this is the core group of people - who twenty years later - will be turning to National Socialism (Hitler) for answers. Yes, twenty years later the same persons will switch from white ribbons (totalitarian symbols of innocence) to black ribbons (totalitarian symbols of loyalty). Sociology and psychology still disappoint in providing reasons why humans act so cruelly to one another. The director Michael Haneke seizes upon that reality. He makes the film deliberately ambiguous as we watch a society disintegrate because the bonds of spiritual love and tolerance were never there in the first place.

This is a thinking person's film that seems to be directed more to the subconscious than the conscious. The return to black and white cinematography is integral and "very" effective. That technique allowed the film to move in waves of moods - in the way that Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" does.
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Format: DVD
I have read much about Michael Haneke, but have never seen a film of his until this one. Haneke is a genuinely polarising filmmaker, some thinking he's a great artist and others who think he's a shock entertainer with no talent. So I went to see what all the hoopla was about with this film, which many people are calling his best.

This is a great film.

The White Ribbon is a deeply haunting, cerebral, strange, rewarding film, one that will make you think for days afterwards (a critic reviewing this film said it would haunt you for days. Try weeks!). Shot in beautiful, shimmering black and white (in fact, this is some of the best photography in a film that I've ever seen), the story revolves around a German village just prior to WWI, and the strange, eerie, creepy, and unsettling things going on around it. In some ways, The White Ribbon is reminiscent of unsettling horror films like Dreyer's Vampyr and many J-horror films (like Kurosawa's Cure) where things are deliberately left unanswered and the loose ends really puzzle you on a very deep, subconscious level. Many films have loose ends but I don't think I've ever seen a film have as many loose ends as this one does, but that's a good thing. The film even starts with a narrator saying "I think it happened this way. I'm not really sure". There are many nasty things going on, and many have suggested this is due to the repressed, religious upbringing of the village, but I'm not sure. To Haneke's credit, he never answers these things directly, and he also doesn't answer them in interviews that he's done. This makes the film far more effective and deeply troubling. Even writing about the film now makes me uncomfortable.
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