Monday, October 19, 2009

Das weiße Band (The White Ribbon)

This the first time Chaos and Storyteller publish a review about the same movie. Maybe both reviews are similar, but I believe that Chaos points out different reasons to like the movie and the point is that we decided to share both reviews. In the future perhaps we will not agree or we will, but today we start the series: Chaos Says/Storyteller Says that we hope you'll enjoy!


The movie story is narrated by the schoolmaster, who warns us right at the beginning that his memories might not be accurate. The setting takes place in Germany, in 1913. Mysterious accidents start happening, causing severe injuries or even death. As the movie progresses we start to get acquainted with the village and it’s inhabitants: the Baron, the Pastor, the doctor, the farmers, their children…we are, of course, being presented with representations of power, religion, all the social classes fitting nicely in the habitual slots.

Is Haneke reproducing a small-scale of society? And is he talking about that society in a particular place and time, or any society on any moment? Most aspects of social life remain unchanged through time and geographic distances. There are power struggles, money struggles, dominant personalities, crimes and deception behind closed doors, adultery and murder. Bad instincts, unfortunately, have always been a part of human race and will continue to be.

Because of this aspect, The White Ribbon reminded me of another of Haneke’s works, 2003’s “Le Temps du Loup”. I think there is a clear connection between these two movies, at least because I can imagine The White Ribbon brewing on his mind as Le Temps du Loup was being created. As it happens, we are again looking to a small society, born out of odd circumstances, but facing the same kind of problems and tense interactions. It is not an easy movie to watch, but if you have not seen it I recommend doing so; but please do it before watching The White Ribbon. I’m afraid any of his previous movies will seem ordinary after watching The White Ribbon.

Brilliant cinematography, and if you have read any of my reviews before, you know I don’t like to praise cinematography “just because”. Haneke’s choice of black –and-white is magnificent and suits the movie perfectly. Color is not needed and would serve no purpose. Also, I don’t recall ever being so fascinated by the sharp, beautiful photography.

The acting is so good that I had a hard time finding the right words to define it. To show several emotions without saying anything is true art. I have to mention Leonie Benesch, playing Eva. Some scenes with her will be forever ingrained in my visual memory, much to my happiness. And Maria-Victoria Dragus as Klara. In both cases, two very young actresses that I’m certain have a bright future ahead.

As for the story…well, you can believe it happened as told, or not. Haneke has put a gigantic amount of effort in controlling all details about this movie; just for the children’s casting, they went through six months and 7.000 kids. Really. So, because of that, I am sure it’s not accidental that the movie is so ambiguous. Haneke plays with the audience but, for once, I enjoyed it.

Having watched the movie twice in one day, I must say I am absolutely in love. Being teased can be a great thing if it is done by a Master.

I only regret that I can’t find words good enough to describe this flawless movie, I feel like I’m giving Haneke a poor service. So, to put it simply: a Masterpiece.

Green light, full speed!


To be honest, watching this extraordinary film has been an amazing experience like no other I have ever lived -perhaps I’m exaggerating as I was really positively shocked with Passolinni’s Teorema and some Fellini’s films… and Bergman… and Tarkovsky… (lol!)-; but it’s close. Truth is this is the best Haneke film that I have ever seen and I enjoyed a lot his multiple award winner Caché and still have in my mind The Piano Teacher.

I’m really not kidding when I say that this film is extraordinary, so much that it has taken me almost a week to get the guts to write something about this unbelievable film and I know that I’ll ramble, so please I beg you loyal readers to bear with me.

My spontaneous and initial reaction was to think that the master filmmaker had to be laughing a lot when editing and when thinking about viewer’s reactions, as I believe that Haneke succeeded in manipulating viewers to think something that never happens and to see in the movie whatever the viewer wishes to see. This is simply Brilliant! He pours to us very well-crafted scenes, one after the other and everything makes total sense as the narrator in the very beginning tells us that he doesn’t know if the story is entirely true and that the strange events that happened in the village could clarify some things that happened in the country where the story is set. But just browse the net to read the many different story interpretations and you will gather how provocative the storytelling style and essence is. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

So, what’s the story about? The story is set in 1913 and tells about a string of misfortunes that befall citizens of Eichwald, an agricultural community where half the population works for a Baron estate. It’s the story of a small community everyday life that definitively changed when WWI started. So you have crimes, misdemeanors, child abuse, adultery, premature death, malicious behavior, adultery, quiet gossip, severe punishment with nonsense children actions and I better stop or I’m going to stimulate your imagination in the wrong sense. Yes, that’s what happens but you see nothing in the screen, so you have to imagine most of what happens and I assure you that whatever you can imagine will not be what follows or what really the story is all about. Am I clear? No, I’m not and the movie is not either.

My brief and not spoiling interpretation is that this story is about human behavior and is not related only to Germany; this kind of behavior still is happening today in many places of the world; and, as Haneke’s leaves to your own interpretation the consequences of the human behavior displayed in the screen, real consequences are different in each culture where right now someone is doing something like what is done in the film. So, my point, there is not only one type of consequence for the shown behaviors.

But if the story could be highly controversial, the film as a film is a true cinema masterpiece in beautiful black and white, that allows extraordinary shadow/light playing and Haneke’s takes extremely good advantage of monochromatic filming to do outstanding outdoor and indoor compositions. Truly is an immaculately crafted master oeuvre. Performances are top notch and remember how difficult is to film children, but here they perform so natural that you the viewer easily get lost inside the film. Amazing!

But there is more. The film genre has been labeled as drama. Yes is a drama, a complex, dense and difficult drama. But also belongs to the soft thriller, whodunit, crime and (some will kill me) horror genres. The horror part is because for many moments the story development made me think about another film “Children of the Corn”, not because there is real horror in this film.

What a crazy GOOD movie that totally plays with viewers while watching the most amazing shadows and use of light.

A Must Be Seen movie and I strongly recommend you do NOT watch it alone as you’ll need someone to talk about the film when is over.

No, is not for all audiences; but as has been happening with the previous 2009 Cannes award winners films I have seen, the Palme D’Or winner is quite mainstream and if general audiences dare to watch it I’m sure many will love it and many will not. My only suggestion is to not think the story as a German story as really applies anywhere in the world. By the way the film full German title translates to “The White Ribbon: A German Children’s Story”. How ironic...

I really LOVE the film and strongly recommend it to EVERYONE!

The film has written allover Oscar for 2010; still, the Academy could give us a surprise…


Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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