From its startling opening image of a horse tumbling over a trip wire and violently dislodging its rider, The White Ribbon traces a series of increasingly sinister “accidents” that befall the residents of a rural German village in the days preceding the start of the First World War. The young son of a wealthy baron is caned and hung upside down in a sawmill. Another boy, the mentally disabled son of a midwife, is nearly blinded; an anonymous note strung around his neck states that the children are being punished for the sins of their parents. Gradually, one schoolteacher’s suspicions begin to fall on the children themselves. In its broadest sense a portrait of the formative years of the Nazi generation, Michael Haneke’s meticulous social drama–shot in stunning black-and-white and featuring an extraordinary cast of nonprofessional child actors–continues its maker’s career-spanning fascination with the brutality lurking beneath society’s placid facades, while taking his artistry to a new level of accomplishment. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, The White Ribbon also received Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography and marked Haneke’s third NYFF appearance.
“Shot in austerely beautiful black-and-white and featuring a sprawling cast of characters reminiscent of a 19th century novel, The White Ribbon marks Haneke’s most ambitious–and unsettling–investigation yet into society’s hidden violence and the evils transmitted from parents to children.”—NYFF47 program note
“****. [Haneke] denies us the simple solutions of most films, in which everything is settled by the violent victory of one side. His films are like parables, teaching that bad things sometimes happen simply because they . . . happen. The universe laughs at man's laws and does what it will.” —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“It's Village of the Damned as re-imagined byThomas Mann after studying August Sander's photographs of German types while perusing Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism.” —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
Images courtesy of X-FILME CRATIVE POOL / THE KOBAL COLLECTION