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The White Ribbon DVD

aka Das Weisse Band - Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte, Michael Haneke, 2009

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1 Review // 4 Lists

Film Details

Directed by Michael Haneke

Produced in 2009

Main Language - German with English subtitles

Countries & Regions - European Film, German Film

MovieMail's Review

Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2009, this brilliant dissection of a community's ills is Haneke's most ambitious film yet. It succeeds brilliantly, says Milo Wakelin.

"Films that are entertainments give simple answers but I think that's ultimately more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think," explains Michael Haneke. "If there are more questions at the end, then surely it is a richer experience."

The German-born director of The White Ribbon has confounded audiences with psychological mysteries such as Hidden (2005) and disturbed them with provocative thrillers such as Funny Games (1997, 2007). With over 30 characters and a detailed historical setting, The White Ribbon provides Haneke with his broadest canvas to date, but the film's message unfolds with a clarity that is as meticulous as its crisp black and white cinematography.

The story is set in 1913 in Eichwald, a small protestant German town which has been beset by a series of unfortunate accidents, some minor, some tragic, and some sinister. First the Doctor (Rainer Bock) falls from his horse after stumbles over a tripwire. Soon, cabbage patches are vandalised, fires started, toy flutes stolen - and then the violence takes on a darker, more ritualistic character.

Like György Pálfi's Hukkle (2002), The White Ribbon poses the viewer with a holistic mystery: in order to understand the strange incidents that beset the townsfolk, one must first solve the puzzle of village life in particular, and German society in general.

The adults of Eichwald are known only by their positions within the community: the unpopular Baron (Ulrich Tukur), the stern Pastor (Burghart Klaussner) and the pleasantly gormless Schoolteacher (Christian Friedel), who narrates the story in flashback. The children of the village all have names, but their roles and motives are less obvious.

Despite its disquieting tone, The White Ribbon is buoyed by several moments of levity and a sweet subplot involving the Schoolteacher's earnest attempts to court a local 17-year-old. And even a blisteringly vile tirade between the Doctor and his mistress contains a certain dark humour.

Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, The White Ribbon is a tautly beautiful dissection of a community, which, like Edgar Reitz's Heimat (1984), locates the early signs of the Second World War in the minutiae of everyday village life. By the end, not everything is resolved, but the film's themes are starkly clear: guilt, shame and punishment lead to defiance, perversity and violence.

Milo Wakelin on 11th November 2009
Author of 106 reviews

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Film Description

Michael Haneke won the 2009 Cannes Palme d'Or for The White Ribbon, a mesmerising study of German rural village life in 1913. Focusing in particular on the austere and often brutal environment of the village school, the film not only exposes the cruelty and hypocrisy of adults towards children but offers an insight into the undercurrents of patriarchy and repression that went on to shape 20th-century Germany. As the outbreak of war draws near, a series of violent and unexplained events shake the small community to its core. In true Haneke style, the film is less concerned with providing a definitive answer to 'whodunnit' than with examining the unhealthy processes that contribute to a sick society.

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Publisher: Artificial Eye

Length: 144 mins

Format: DVD B&W

Region: 2

Released: 15th March 2010

Cat No: ART479DVD

DVD Extras

  • Interview with Michael Haneke
  • Trailer

Film Stills

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Community Reviews

“Fascism and childhood”
by Arh on 15th May 2010

This is the most important film in this century yet has been made.

There is a hint of infinite visual tragedy from Tarkovskys Offer and some non-dramatical e... Read on

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