Feature

The White Ribbon

Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke creates a “mystery not of suspense but of suspicion” as a town's social fabric is shattered by random acts of violence.

Directed by Michael Haneke(R)

****Violence plagues a German farming town in 1913.

The White Ribbon is difficult to love, but not to appreciate, said Todd McCarthy in Variety. Set in a northern German village on the eve of World War I, this “immaculately crafted” black-and-white film follows five Protestant families plagued by random acts of violence. As the people turn against one another and what remains of a fragile social consensus is shattered, writer-director Michael Haneke creates a “mystery not of suspense but of suspicion.” By directly addressing such themes as good and evil, innocence and guilt, and collective responsibility, Haneke connects these malicious acts to the eventual rise of Nazism, said Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. Known for his “tense, provocative, and unnerving” vision, the Austrian filmmaker shows no fear in conveying the poison of patriarchy and how the cruelty of one generation can be the inheritance of another. The White Ribbon is a “dense account of childhood, courtship, family, and class relations in a painfully repressed and repressive society,” said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. While it asks a lot of its audience, the reward is Haneke’s “most mannered and most beautiful” film.

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