Michael Haneke's long, slow study of oppression and retribution is a real wonder. It's not an easy one to sit through, but I found it to be very compelling and worth seeing.
The story concerns a Protestant village in Northern Germany on the eve of World War I, and the series of odd incidents that occur there over the course of a year or so. It's sort of mysterious, but not a complete enigma. It's not really a visceral or scary film, but the mood, tone, and atmosphere are that of dread, uneasiness, and creepiness.
Credit for that goes to the gorgeous black and white cinematography, and two of Haneke's trademarks: lack of a film score, and numerous long, static shots. The narration also adds some nice insights and helps get to right mood going. The bulk of the unsavory stuff occurs offscreen, but even then, this film is really eerie.
I liked that this was a period piece (especially of a time not often seen in films), and what it was about (the themes, that is). I'm not gonna lie though. I checked my watch more than once. However, I'm not going to say that I got bored, because I always found something to enjoy, even if the film does seem a little draggy at times.
Like a lot of Haneke's work seems to be, this is a film that's not for all tastes, and seems to really divide audiences. I happen to really dig it, even if I don't want to watch it again anytime soon, or ever. I can really appreciate the artistry and the look at rural life during an interesting time in an interesting place.