The White Ribbon
So my ties are inspired by “Back to the Future II”, what’s it to you?

Theatrical Release Date: 01/22/2010
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Burghart Klaußner, Rainer Bock, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, Susanne Lothar

Director Michael Haneke is known for making films where people aren’t exactly nice to each other (“Caché”, both the international and U.S. versions of “Funny Games”). As such, it was quite a shock that his latest, “The White Ribbon” begins in this bucolic farming community, where all the kids seem like one spanking away from dying their hair blond and forming an evil mob, but that never happens. What we get is a slow, slow, slow build up, when (after an hour’s run time had passed) a scene more indicative of Haneke’s style appeared and by then, it was too little, too late.

The town is basically run by the local baron, whose controls the hiring and firing of workers on the land. A string of violent acts leave the people wondering who could be behind it and eventually that crisis is solved but it’s a little perplexing why Haneke spent so much time trying to develop the characters only to turn it into a witch hunt of sorts.

More annoying is the semi-narration. The town teacher is giving the audience particulars of the events in voice-overs but there are often scenes without narration where he has no knowledge of what’s happening. Why have a narrator if the film unfolds separately from their point of view? Either go omniscient or make the entire story from his point of view. Even more odd is that the person doing the voice over as the teacher is listed as a different actor all together. Weird.

The actors all do a decent job, most notably Burghart Klaußner as the Pastor and Rainer Bock as the doctor. Each of them add some much needed scheming to the town’s generally bland landscape. Sadly, the teacher (Christian Friedel) who is the main character wasn’t able to really match up to either of them in their scenes together. Leonie Benesch does a nice job as his underage love interest, but the inclusion of this element only made the film’s schizophrenia worse. Credit is due to the child actors though, for being equal parts natural and creepy (seriously, this could have turned into a horror film and I’d have bought it) .

Although there are plenty of people who will disagree with me, judging by the awards and accolades this is racking up, “The White Ribbon” was merely a good short film stretched mightily into feature length and I can only give it a 2.5 out of 5. Unless you’ve got an OCD about seeing all the nominated films in the awards season or are a Haneke devotee, I just can’t recommend it.