Fellow Movie Lovers
THE WHITE RIBBON
This sinister but compelling film by Michael Haneke is a study of the inhabitants of a small German town over a year’s time, 1913-14. A town so isolated or encapsulated that life revolves around farming, procreating and prayer; its existence rests in the hands of the powerful but just landlord, the Baron. His world doomed and soon to be “gone with the wind.”
The film evolves as the school teacher (Christian Friedel) reflects on a series of unresolved disasters that have plagued his dreams throughout the years and the intensity and tautness of this film is that, in reality oftentimes one is left with only speculation.
Brilliantly filmed in black and white, eliminating the softening effects of color; our focus is on the chilling and underlying evil seeping from the pores of those whose innocence should be unquestioned. The children so blond, beautiful and beguiling, similar in countenance that you are tested as to which family they belong to. In conclusion, it is not relevant.
The white ribbon, a symbol of purity, is worn by the children of the Pastor; it is removed when their souls are expunged of the wrongs or sins committed. The Pastor (Burghart Klaussner, is galvanizing in the role) wields his religion with axe like precision. He is a master of dehumanization and intimidation, producing not good but mendacious, cunning and amoral products.
Watching this dark, mysterious world, with the clairvoyance of almost a hundred years you see the roots of fascism, anti-Semitism all germinated in the name of religion, where God is removed from the equation, replaced with a self aggrandizing, self serving populace, terrified of the “other” and questing for its erasure.
To paraphrase Edmond Burke’s profound statement that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, The White Ribbons’s success lies in the untainted purity of the school teacher, the nanny he courts and the youngest son of the Pastor; these characters rise above the fray, redeem the film from moralizing and bequeath the viewer the gift of hope.