REVIEW: The White Ribbon

15 01 2013

The White RibbonI like to fancy myself somewhat adept at interpreting the meaning of movies, but sometimes, I get stumped just like everyone else.  It happened to me in “A Serious Man,” though with the proper context, some light has been shed on the directorial intent.  I was also pretty perplexed by Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” although I could sense vast levels of interpretation bubbling beneath the surface.

Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” on the other hand, has me totally bamboozled.  I have absolutely no idea what it’s really about.  Sure, ostensibly, it’s a movie following a pre-World War I German town as they are terrorized by a series of strange deaths.  But I don’t think Haneke means it to be taken at face value.  No one of that stature just makes a movie set in the past and means it to be just that.

The story, though extremely slowly revealed, is rather interesting.  I could scarcely keep track of the ten trillion villagers, much less give you any of their names, but I was always able to follow the events.  However, I was just blindsided by the ending – or lack thereof, making me doubt if I really understood what had happened in the movie’s first two hours.

I was a little angry that I left the movie with no sense of resolution, catharsis, or finality.  And perhaps that was what Haneke was trying to achieve with “The White Ribbon.”  But in a strange way, I almost feel like the film isn’t over, like I’m just missing the last chapter or something.  It’s the same way I feel about “Lost,” one of my favorite television shows of all time – even though I still haven’t watched the last season, perhaps because I don’t want it to end.

Certainly, I would like to be freed from the not-so-nagging frustration of not knowing quite what “The White Ribbon” is.  And maybe in a few years, I’ll re-enter that world of haunting visuals, intricate scripting, and deliberate direction.  Though I’m not sure if I will emerge with any sense of closure, after one rewatch or several.  B2halfstars



5 responses

15 01 2013
Mark Walker

Thanks for the heads-up on this man. I’ve got this ready to watch but have been waiting for the right time. Now I know, I have to be certain that I’m up for it. 🙂

15 01 2013

It’s definitely a tough nut to crack. Be sure you are in “a mood” for it.

7 02 2013
Andreas Uhde

It’s sweet that for an American it seems a tough nut to crack while for me as a German it’s so in you face. It’s Haneke’s cinematic test setup of what led to WW I and Verdun and ultimately WW II and Auschwitz.

7 02 2013

Hey, I won’t deny that culture and nationality is a major factor affecting our read on a movie.

Intertextuality – none of us really see the same film.

19 02 2013

The interview with Haneke that is on the blu-ray disk (I am not sure if it is on the dvd) was pretty helpful in figuring it all out, though he is I guess quite elusive even in that. I did really want it to end with some sort of villiage wide condemnation of all the terrible things that happened, or at least to have seen the Pastor confronted with what his creepy kids had done.

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