Monday, December 21, 2009

Review - The White Ribbon

Here's another one from TIFF I finally got around to writing about.


Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon has already impressed critics on both sides of the pond and earned laurels at festivals all over the world, but honestly, I can't see what the big deal is. Don't me wrong, it's a good film, but has self-contradictory as this sounds, it was boring. Defenders of the film I'm sure would correct me by saying it's subtle, demanding, complex, and moves at a relaxed pace, all of which is absolutely true, but it's also boring.

Set in Germany one year before the start of WWI, The White Ribbon unfolds several dramatic subplots involving the intertwining lives of the townspeople of a small rural village. A great deal of the story focuses on the children in the town and the growing suspicion that they may be responsible for a number of heinous crimes that have recently been plaguing the town. The white ribbon of the title is worn by the children of the town pastor as a symbol of innocence and purity, but by the film's end, we wonder if perhaps they lost these virtues long ago. The historical and political implications of this unsettling youth revolt is a clear allegory for the feelings of violence and hatred that generation would exact on the world 20 years later.

This bleak saga plays out very gradually with no music, stark black and white photography, and lots of long takes. I understand that bleak was the way to go on this movie, but bleak doesn't have to equal bland. A film editor would probably have done this film some good (insert tongue in cheek here), not to mention some volume, as nearly every character seems to be speaking in whispers.

This is Germany's official submission for the Foreign Language Film category, and while many feel its high profile puts in the front-runner position, a nomination is not guaranteed. This branch of the Academy like their films to be tame and accessible, but The White Ribbon is perhaps too challenging for them, even with its slight WWII connection (usually a plus with this branch). The recently instated executive committee should at least ensure it advances to the nine-title shortlist, but the nomination is not locked. It never is in this category.

**1/2 out of ****

1 comment:

strike said...

The White Ribbon is a dramatic and mysterious movie. In a movie, in Protestant northern Germany, on the eve of World War I, the children of a church and school run by the village schoolteacher and their families experience a series of bizarre incidents that inexplicably assume the characteristics of a punishment ritual. I want to watch The white ribbon movie and but the releasing date of this movie is Dec 30.