Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The White Ribbon "Das weiße Band" (2009) - ★★★★

Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Stars: Christian Friedel, Burghart Klaußner, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Leonard Proxauf, Leonie Benesch

Michael Haneke has officially made it onto my list as one of the greatest story writers in the history of cinema. The White Ribbon is an extremely interesting film. It's as if there is a darkness, an evil looming over the whole film that keeps us wanting to know what's going to happen next. However, it drags on way too much, saying things that could have been said at least 20 minutes quicker.

Set in a small German village just before WW1, The White Ribbon has an intense atmosphere from the get-go. When strange events start happening in the village, we start question who is behind the mystery. The acts committed are atrocious, ranging from burning sheds to beating young children to near-death. As the mystery unfurls, we see that the townspeople all have their own little secrets and sins. There's always a gloom hanging over the village, for whoever is behind these crimes stands among them.

Yes, it's a very dark film. I loved the way it showed how every family has their own interesting stories to tell. One that I found most interesting was that of a Pastor that beat his children for small issues such as staying out too late. There's something off about his kids, something dark and twisted inside of them. It's not hard to see why, the way they have God shoved down their throats and often suffer extreme punishments. Another interesting story is that of the village doctor and his family. His children are lovely, innocent people. Unlike him, who has his own sick and sordid affairs and urges.

I think what makes this so interesting is the way the affairs of the townspeople are revealed. There are so many different stories, and the people seem so normal on the surface. As soon as you see what happens behind closed doors, you see that no one is normal... except the main character and narrator of the story, The School Headmaster (Christian Friedel). Haneke has such a talent at writing the most creative stories, interesting dialogue and interesting characters.

As for the strange events that occurred in the village, they were extremely disturbing and unbelievable. One of the characters said something along the lines of "What kind of person could do this to a child." Yes, what kind of person could? The film seems to lead you to the direction of the children being the culprits. The problem is, why? Why would the children do these horrific things? I mean, sure they are mistreated badly, but what would lead them to take it out on innocent people? Well, I can understand the motives, but the way in which they "took" their revenge didn't make sense to me. That leads you to two conclusions: They're either mentally deranged, or evil.

Well, even though I enjoyed the film immensely, it dragged at an almost glacial pace. Even though the other stories are interesting, they're not necessarily interesting enough to make it OK to extend the movie an extra half hour. I mean, they could have scrapped the story between the school headmaster and Eva, or they could have scrapped the storyline between the doctor and the midwife. Instead, Haneke adds them all into a story that they didn't need to be in, which is why I feel that The White Ribbon could have benefited from cutting down the bulk.

In the end, this movie makes you stop and think about what you've just seen. I love movies that don't underestimate the strength and will of children, especially when they are intelligent. Even though the movie was too long, it looked and sounded fantastic. Not to mention, the story itself is very interesting. There are those who love this movie, and those who hate this movie. I think it's great, but  a little overblown.

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