Posted by: dougery | May 2, 2010

Evil Children Speaking German

Yesterday evening Lara and I ventured down to Hyde Park and Doc Films which we haven’t been to in 5 years. What drew us there was the latest Haneke film the White Ribbon which we had planned on seeing at the Landmark a few months back but missed because we are truly wretched at getting to the movies. Seriously, even our Netflix’d movies sit unwatched for weeks on hand. Yet evil children speaking German have always been an attraction for us on par with the explosions and giant robots that draw in the masses every Summer. And while that is a bit of an overstatement (I like giant robots beating each other up just as much as the next guy), it gives you some kind of idea what kind of movie we were in for.

The White Ribbon is presented in black and white, a stylistic choice that paid off dividends for a movie so concerned with good v. evil, innocence v. guilt, light v. dark, and so forth. There was no color to distract the eye from the dark shadows, blond hair, blackened eyes, shining snowfields and the titular white ribbons. The film’s opening and ending credits appear on black voids where tiny white words scroll up and meekly declare themselves unaccompanied by a shred of music. They trudge up the screen out of the darkness and return to it, a tidy metaphor for film that suggests being good is a hell of a lot of work. Discipline is rigidly enforced, and bad behavior corrected by violence. The only problem is that all this violence is good for is engendering further acts of abuse. Make no mistake, this is a serious film, the kind folks watch as art rather than entertainment. Unless your idea of entertainment includes mutilated children, incest, factory accidents and skewered birds.

Which is not to say that the film doesn’t draw the viewer in with it’s many families and their sordid internal relationships and grievances against one another. The White Ribbon operates like a whodunnit, but not one where it really matters who did it, as virtually everyone in the town is corrupt in some way. ‘Fun’ is not quite the correct word for the pleasure one gets in trying to figure out the chain of cause and effect as a series of accidents and crimes mark the film’s deliberate pace, each just a hair more brutal than the last, although the violence is never shown, merely some of the results. Much happens behind closed doors and just off screen. It is not hard to imagine this town, and others like it, composing a continent that is about to destroy itself by the most horrific means possible in just a few short years.

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Responses

  1. What a great post. I still love the line “they trudge up the screen out of the darkness and return to it”


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