Director: Michael Haneke
Stars: Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, Fion Mutert, Michael Kranz
“Unrelenting” and “insufferable” are two words that could easily be used to describe Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. And those descriptions would come from fans of the film, which depicts a series of strange and disturbing events that take place in a small village in Germany on the eve of the first World War. Suspiciously, these happenings only seem to occur when a creepy group of local kids are in the vicinity.
Despite boisterously-sounding titles like Funny Games (see #49) on his resume, Haneke’s tendency to lean toward the dark side of life for inspiration was only furthered by The White Ribbon, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and earned two Oscar nominations (for Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film) in 2010. But those looking for easy answers—or any answers, really—will be disappointed. Because the film doesn’t offer a true resolution. Just 144 minutes of abuse, humiliation, punishment, and unexplained events in stark (and beautiful) black-and-white.
"People always want answers,” Haneke told The Guardian in 2009. “But only liars have the answers. Politicians have answers." He also noted that the only television he watches is the weather forecast because, “that's the only thing that is not a lie.” But somehow it all works and accomplishes Haneke’s real goal: to make the audience think. (Even if that does come with a side order of depression.) —JW