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The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band) Reviews

Page 1 of 101
Matthew Roe
Matthew Roe

Super Reviewer

September 27, 2011
Michael Haneke has pushed the bounds of what is and could be considered going too far in the film medium, which is his whole mantra. He brings us The White Ribbon, something like if you took elements from The Crucible, Schindler's List, and Jesus Camp blended it together, and put it all in German with a drained out final image with a dash of fascism, unknown motives and religious fundamentalism. This extraordinarily stark and innovative film comments very boldly and brashly on "the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature." The acting is decidedly honest and quite life-like. The cinematography continues to add layers to the reality of the film and Haneke's direction couldn't be more appropriate to bring his screenplay to life. And the filmmaking style of this film is pure Haneke, utilizing long takes, tracking shots and manipulating the world in front of the camera to unsettle you and provoke thought, very few directors can achieve this multiple times, he achieved it with both renditions of his film Funny Games, and he most certainly did it here. Brava.
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

July 9, 2010
A nuanced, demanding film about small-town secrets that rivals the best stories of Alice Munro or William Faulkner, in which characters' lines are cutting, doom is just around the corner, and the individuals' respective stories continue to surprise as each reveals itself to be related to the others in larger frame, the life of a town (Eichwald) and the narrating school teacher. Great story, well told, and though it's lean (basically, one setting over one year, and a deservedly abrupt ending), there's a lot going on here, plot-wise and meaning-wise, with symbolism and metaphysical engagement to spare. Reminded me, too, of Hitchcock, in that the most horrific is the off-stage stuff, and for a reason that I hope is more than "because it's European and in black and white," Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal... and, though set in pre-WWI Germany, it's a story that has no trouble resonating today because of its (unfortunately) universal subject matter. A worthy Palme d'Or winner that moves slowly but stays captivating all the way. Definitely a film you should see.
Jan Marc M

Super Reviewer

September 10, 2011
The White Ribbon is a dark, depressing account of human nature and innate, or learned, violence. Eerily beautiful, but the meanings and metaphors are too subtle, vague, and complex. Perhaps a metaphor to human nature itself? Enigmatic.
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

June 29, 2010
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.
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

July 23, 2010
Drawn out to cover a period of a year right before the start of World War One, The White Ribbon is far more than a war film, and not at all a typical period piece. It lies somewhere between M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and Ingmar Bergman's later films, never dragging but never truly making sense of the complicated plot and fleshed out characters. Instead of a moral standing the film centers on three powerful men within the small fictional community of Eichwald, Germany, run by a wealthy baron, a caring doctor, and a punishing pastor, hell-bent on straightening out the minds of his flock's children, and his own. As the film progresses many acts of violence and cruelty are inflicted on members of these three rulers and their families, along with community members. There are many large families in the film, all of which are conflicted by the death of parents, losing income, or forms of revenge on their leaders. There are many flaws within every character, leading to such impurities as adultery, impure touching, and child molestation, to torturing children, killing pets, and arson. As it progresses along in its black and white format, the distance between the villagers increases until all are under suspicion of one another, and the acts are never truly explained, but the speculation under which they fall seem farfetched yet somehow probable. Enrapturing while still being art in its finest form, White Ribbon isn't meant to simply be a shock and awe foreign spectacle, but an enriching ride through a historical period that fits the horrifying acts of a group dynamic.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

April 28, 2011
Icy, chilly, gorgeously rendered portrait of pre-Nazi Germany.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

April 20, 2011
Typically of Michael Haneke films the importance here is not who but why. Dissect and you will find the answer and nobody does cinematic autopsies like Haneke. I though The White Ribbon was excellent, it's not my favourite of his, but I would argue however that it is his greatest achievement as a director. The black and white cinematography is sublime, the performances powerful and the steady pace and slightly different editing approach were perfect. I think the Palme D'Or was well deserved, although he still remains the most love/hate director working today it seems. For what it's worth, I very much love his work.
Nadira I

Super Reviewer

January 20, 2011
A movie by Haneke that is mysterious, probably give us some clue to actually know who the murderer is and let us think, not just watch. But I don't think it is a movie that most people look forward to. It has that 'dark' side into it and also presented black and white. A slow paced movie that sometimes makes you wonder what are they actually doing and say. Not that "Das Weisse Band" is overall bad, because they have brilliant narration attached to it. Opression in the area triggers evil doings.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

December 27, 2010
Another strong effort from one of the most unique film-makers on the scene right now, in which WWI is about to break and a small village located in the north of Germany experiences events that no one can explain. Director Michael Haneke's cleverness can sometimes be confused as smugness (some believe "Funny Games" to be an annoying wag of the finger at the audience, I found it to be an enamoring, emotionally draining viewing experience), but whether you love or hate him, you can not deny that the guy is original. The master of ambiguity strikes yet again here, as he shows various on-goings in his character's lives, without really ever resolving the dilemma at hand. Some will find this to be cruel and potentially an act of betrayal, but it actually works fairly well here. It is not as big a rug-puller and disappointment as "Cache" (his most celebrated work, which I find to be massively over-rated, mostly due to how it concludes), and it is not as scarring as the ending to "Funny Games".

Although this piece suffers from overpopulation, the tortured looks on the children's faces do enough damage to one's memory that this movie should haunt you just a bit. And that's all Hanake wants really, in addition to providing a point of view on the start of the young generation that was brainwashed by one Adolf Hitler some 30 years later.
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

May 24, 2009
patriarchal protestant feudalism breeds evil. a stifling atmosphere of oppression, repression, rigidity and denial well-conjured and utterly believable. a magnificent looking b&w film that made me think of bergman more than once. this is the best i've seen from haneke.
flixsterman
flixsterman

Super Reviewer

September 26, 2009
Das weisse Band is a hard watch. Set in the countryside of Germany, circa 1913, the environment is one of misogynistic abuse and retribution. Given the bleak and stifling social structure of the era, it's no wonder Germany fathered a generation of stormtroopers and Nazis. Director Michael Haneke has provided us with an unflinching look at the underpinnings of fascism and the roots of social degradation.
RCCLBC
RCCLBC

Super Reviewer

December 2, 2009
I feel like this should be a five star film, there was so much that I loved about it. But there was just something missing for me, that prevented me from embracing it entirely. The only way I can discribe it is to say that it felt slightly homoginized to me, but even that does not totally encompass how I feel.

It is definatley a solid piece of film making. Beautifully shot and well acted and I highly recomend it. Perhaps someone else can help me put into words, what I felt was missing from this impressive film?
Mark H

Super Reviewer

May 15, 2009
Director Michael Haneke's movies are languidly paced mood pieces that slowly unfold toward an enigmatic conclusion (see Funny Games, Caché). That's not to say that along the way, the audience isn't treated to a beautifully shot, fascinating study of power and control. Here a quiet village is persecuted by a series of aggressive acts by an unknown source. The Protestant pastor, the doctor and the Baron of the community all exert their authority in dictator-like fashion. The fictitious small town of Eichwald is supposedly a microcosm of German fascism. Very well, but what's the point? Yes, the action has an ominous feel that is bewitching. This strikingly photographed, black and white drama LOOKS like some long lost Ingmar Bergmann film from 1957, but it has none of that auteur's focus or optimism. Oppressively gloomy and dark, there is a lot to admire but not much to love.
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

July 30, 2010
People will be discussing this one for decades? So they say. Well, not the people in my universe. What a piece of overwrought and overrated borat.
Drew S

Super Reviewer

July 20, 2010
What is there, necessarily, that suggests that this tiny abusive little community led to the uprising of fascism over all others? Michael Haneke's postulate seems flawed from the start. The White Ribbon makes some interesting points, but the ones it drives home as truly important seem obvious and shaky. I thought he was on to something intriguing about the village's treatment of women, and Karla's concurrent growth into a mean little bitch, but again, it's a real stretch for Haneke to come out and say that this caused them to grow up into the first generation of Nazis. To defuse this, it's easy to view the film as a metaphor for the widespread cause of fascism, but the violence that Haneke depicts has very real consequences and its treatment is far too literal to suggest any symbolic meanings. Two and a half hours of specific atrocities bring the focus to the village and its inhabitants, not to the long-term ramifications of their crimes. As a mystery, functionally, it's intriguing in a potboilery way and also very simple. A viewer will almost immediately see who is committing these crimes and why. I'm sure that creating a cohesive mystery was not on the top of Haneke's list, but it never hurts.

The White Ribbon is not without its virtues. Some of the subplots really pay off, augmented and lent credence by the strong acting. Especially effective is a peripheral romance between the "main" character and a nanny under the employ of the Baroness, made all the more intriguing by the peculiar conclusion it reaches. The child performances are exceptional, full of anguish and barely suppressed yet deftly hidden rage. The black and white filming is beautiful, but as a congruency to the white ribbons that some of the children are forced to wear and what they entail, it seems overly literal. And despite my problems with the awful events that we see unfold in the village, they do make for a basally intriguing story. Not quite as stirring or insightful as I'd expected, but worth watching nonetheless.
neverteaseaweasel
neverteaseaweasel

Super Reviewer

November 24, 2009
I was extreamely excited to find this on shelf at the library, despite not having watched the trailer or read any reviews of the film. Generally I would agree with anyone who would say that it not a wise move to watch something simply on impulse or because you've heard of lot about it, but here I think the less you know about The White Ribbon going into it, the better. There is depth and stublties to the piece. I really do not think that everything can be totally understood and grasped in a single viewing. I actually did not totally "get" it while watching; but that was not due to any shortcoming of the film, but being blinded by my own opinions and experiences. Personally, I find the conservative in the extreame, protestant world to be a very scary place. Some of the most unsettling parts of the film come from the discipline and forms of punishment. All of it is a abusive in varied ways. What I found to be the worst are the parents, insistent that they are experiencing more pain in administrating the punishment than the child will experience. This is so unsettling because it's still happening. There really is not much of a differance between the situations of these villagers and so many religious zealot families today. It is also so disturbing that both parties fail to realize that what they're doing is in any way wrong or dysfunctional. The children have been brainwashed their entire lives and know nothing else and parents honestly feel that they are in the right. Still, while this is a major part of the film, it is not what The White Ribbon is about by any means. It is definitely what stood out to me, but really the true issue addressed is the burning, unconditional hatred that can fester in us all. The film is a great achievement no matter what you take from it. It is busy and simple, focused and vague. I think everyone who watches it will probably draw something slightly different. And, really, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

July 6, 2010
An absolutely gorgeous looking film from Michael Haneke and the closest that anyone has come to early Bergman in this day and age. The story of a town that has some random, unsettling violence begin to occur is like a really dramatic version of Children of the Corn with some spooky performances by the younger actors in this film. The film is overflowing with scenes that range from heartbreaking to disturbing to (and this being a rare for a Haneke film) really beautiful and innocent human interaction. I think a lot of people will try and connect the dots between these children and the young Nazis, but I instead thought it was an interesting take on how people (of any age) when put under extreme rule will rebel and may use violence to do so. I actually thought the ending was a little trite and almost falls into a hole of being a whodunit, but there was enough in this film to make me overlook that.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

March 6, 2010
Better than the other flicks by Haneke I've watched thus far. B/W (Black & White) thing was a distraction for me, though. As with most of his flicks, here too Haneke leaves the mystery to be solved by the viewers. Or at least, that's what I gathered!!! 6.5/10.
boxman
boxman

Super Reviewer

April 9, 2010
After all the awards and hype, I'm left fairly unmoved. I think I'm just not a fan of the director; I disliked Funny Games, disliked The Piano Teacher, and think Cache is vastly overrated. Michael Haneke is just not for me, and The White Ribbon is further proof of this fact. This is two and half-hours of incidents. Supposedly, since its victory at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, this movie was dubbed as a case study examining the beginnings of anti-Semitism as a small German town undergoes a series of mysterious violent assaults and vandalism. I don't know how in the world this explores any sort of psychological group think to later clarify Germany's willingness to accept Hitler's demands. All this movie does is show yet another example of teenagers rebelling. In typical Haneke fashion, characters can be unbelievably cruel to one another at the flick of a switch. Nothing really adds up and the pacing is so mind-numbingly deliberate to showcase the world of pre-World War I Germany. So when people leave the room we watch them walk off screen, hear their off screen noises, then they return and go off screen again and we can repeat the same jolly waiting game. I understand the artistic thought behind it, but I'd be much more forgiving if Haneke had developed a story and some characters worthy to wait for. This is a plodding and conceited exercise that reveals next to nothing about the human condition for cruelty, because, chiefly, you don't really believe that these people exist nor do you care.

Nate's Grade: C
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