In the year preceding the start of World War I, a small German village is quietly rocked by a series of cruel events (crimes against the seemingly innocent) committed by unknown culprits in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. The town’s children are both potential victims and suspects as the twisted natures of their parents’ sins are soon laid bare. In the midst of paranoia and gossip (though not as pointedly delicious as Clouzot’s Le Corbeau), a kind schoolteacher woos a sweetly naive nanny, a baron’s marriage disintegrates, a steward’s family crumbles, a pastor spares no rod and a doctor commits the greatest of sins. Originally conceived as a mini-series, there are many narrative threads and characters to keep track of, and Haneke provides glimpses into the varied lives of the different classes at work in the village and constructs something akin to a psychological case study of the personality types on display. One wonders how much more some of the stories would’ve opened up had Haneke the luxury of six or more hours to weave his tale.
The biggest problem with a Michael Haneke film is that it’s a Michael Haneke film. Continue reading