The White Ribbon is a movie about how monsters are made. Set on the eve of the outbreak of World War I, this film is set in a small rural German Village where the Baron and Baroness basically feed the town. The people in the town all work for them, and they hope for a good harvest, so they can feed their families and celebrate .The villagers raise the crop and raise their children as they see fit.There is an order to things; a way of life that has been done for a long time.This is how it is .Underneath, however…things start to fester.
The film is narrated by an older man who was a young schoolteacher there when the events that he tells about happened. Strange accidents start to occur here, and there is worry of who is doing this and why? The town Doctor falls off his horse and is seriously injured. A tripwire was run in between two trees, knowing that the Doctor rode his horse through there. A farmer's wife is killed when she falls through an old floor in the sawmill. Was this an accident?....maybe. Several children are taken and beaten; one, a handicapped boy ,son of the Doctor's midwife, and also one of the Baron's boys .These incidents start to happen more and more, and the villagers do not know what to do or how to find the culprit. This once peaceful town is now on edge. The schoolteacher in the opening narration of the film notes that he found it odd, that after school a large group of children would not scatter and go off in all directions, but as a group head out instead for the edge of the village. They gather at the church to try and discuss what is happening, and see if anyone has any idea of who is doing this.
As we begin to meet some of the villagers and their families, certain things become apparent. Not all is what it seems, and there are many things hidden behind the doors of their homes. The pastor with his large family, rules over his children with a brutal discipline that many would consider barbaric. He wants them to be pure of heart, but his measures seem to be doing the opposite to them. After an incident where he finds his children lied to him and their mother, he beats them all, and makes the two oldest wear a (White Ribbon) to remind them of the purity that they have lost in deceiving them. They will wear it until they can trust the children again. The Doctor, we learn after he has recovered from his accident, and home again with his teenage daughter and young son, is a disgusting man who degrades the midwife, whom he has been having relations with after his wife died in childbirth. He also has been doing inappropriate things to his daughter.A scene about halfway through the film, where the Doctor tells the midwife how he real feels about her by destroying her with words, is about one of the cruelest and honest scenes I have ever witnessed in a movie. He is a complete pig of a man but he believes he has every right to do so.
Throughout this beautifully photographed black and white film, written and directed by the German Filmmaker: Michael Haneke, we see time and time again, children being mistreated, abused mentally, physically, and sexually, by the very people who are supposed to be caring for them. We see the cruel punishments handed out by the parents in the name of being a more pure person. Haneke handles these scenes subtly and never makes anything too graphic. As with the majority of the films incidents, they are done off screen; Haneke trusts you know what's going on and he never shoves it in your face. This film is a mystery of sorts; but it's main intent is not to be a standard " Who is doing this?" and in the end reveal the culprit. It is more a slow burn about the cause and effect of oppression, religion, and rules. If that sounds vague; it’s not. You reap what you sow, and the adults will have a lot to answer for in the coming years, with the foundation of things to come alluded to by Haneke.
I thought of several movie while watching this great film: Lord of The Flies, The Village of the Damned, and also Orwell's brilliant Animal Farm. I watched the documentary on the Blue ray, and Haneke went to great pains to cast this film with natural child actors and the adults who fit the time period. The payoff is huge as the entire cast is excellent and their look appropriate. Ever notice how old pictures have kind of odd and creepy looking people in them?Well that's how this movie looks at times. What is so great about this film, is that you can watch it multiple times and take different point of views and justify, to an extent, the motives of some of the people in it.
It's easy to make a straight up horror film; get some scary monster and start killing the cast.It is another thing to create a canvas with characters, put them on a stage, with a smart and intelligent thought out script, and slowly open the curtains to the moment when you realize the true horror of what is going on. No big reveal; just the growing lump in your throat as this film progresses and the dread comes...That's scary! Haneke doesn't pander to you; you have to watch and listen. This film is not for everybody. But if you give it a chance, and let it sink in, You may ask yourself afterwards....What have we done to our children?
Watch the trailer:http://youtu.be/5KJKvvvxY74