The White Ribbon (2009) – The Lowest Authority of Society


With “Funny Games” and “Time of the Wolf“, I can say that Michael Haneke is one of the greatest directors I’ve ever seen. Not because of how his trademark always tackles the human condition. But, it’s because if you check all the goofs in all of his works, there were just a few especially “The White Ribbon”. According to IMDb, “The White Ribbon” just has one goof. However, I’m not talking about how Haneke became one of the perfectionist directors or else. But, it’s how “The White Ribbon” becomes a magic thread where all of the characters are involved.

All of the characters are involved in the way in which questions from a narrative can be received by us. Because of this, the movie creates conflict. However, it puts you in various views on how you can find these answers in specific characters. A lot of people said if the film was marked as an early glimpse of the Nazism and fascist ideology. I love the idea but the movie has a transcendence throughout the national, cultural, and periodic divisions. It’s providing true strength if human needs to understand their basic horrors and needs to survive. It’s simple yet so complex, to be honest.

Mistakes often occur along with bad luck. In a village, all bad things often happen. Before WWI exploded, some said that the village had been cursed by God. However, some say if there is a supernatural force because of a specific person. Some say if it’s just an accident but it’s also all too coincidental if it all happens in one way. Therefore, they always blame the children for the incident. Some were sacrificed, some were killed, but some also disappeared suddenly. One person can do this but it’s more than evil thing if you think.

The movie is set in a rural village in Germany. The village has a simple, common and peaceful life. The Baron (Ulrich Tukur) owns the land and employs more than half the people in the village. The city is quite small where a pastor (Burghart Klaußner), doctor (Rainer Bock), school teacher (Christian Friedel), farmer, etc. accommodates everyone. Everyone acts in their respective roles. They work for the clock, echoing variance like a bomb. It isn’t clear for the village to have its patriarchal regulations. Detailed time and place but authoritarian are acutely unique to the village.

“The White Ribbon” isn’t about who did it or any mystery movie in general. It’s simple but not too simple. You have to find who is good and bad people. Yet, it’s hard to find such persons when you think if there are no holes in all the circumstances. The story narrated by a teacher (Erns Jacobi) is played in a younger version by Friedel. For your information, all of the adult characters don’t seem to have real names. Each of them is only referred to like their job, like the pastor, the teacher, etc.

The protagonist tells of all of his experience in objectivity and precision. He didn’t provide a summary or conclusion. It’s just a fact in his perspective. In specific moments, there is a fragile balance. It’s an exploration of what happens when they hide everything for a new generation. The doctor horse tripped over a wire near his house. Who did it? The farmer’s wife is killed in a factory. Why? A cabbage garden has been destroyed. How can? Suspicion everywhere. The village tried to come together. But, the more they try to calm down on the surface, there will always be other things under their feet.

Everyone just does their work. The baron’s control people. The doctor continued his experiment. The teacher is just… teaching children at school. They always attend church and they all look religious too. There are newcomers in the village and they respect the arrival of newcomers. Terrible things always happen; the characters in this film are always looking for scapegoats. A child has just been killed. Who is to blame? One must be judged carefully. But who exactly? They never think about finding a way out, the perpetrator, or the solution; just do the same thing over and over again. They prevent but are unsuccessful, blame each other, close their mouths, eyes, and ears, and repeat it.

The suspicion came to the facts. We can’t always run away. There is a puzzle piece in the puzzle missing. It’s randomly happening again because we don’t know all of the wicked acts. But, as soon as you know how evil came from, it’s terrifying if you see it coming. Children are always the most powerful weapons. They are always innocent and also never lie. Only instilling a little doctrine to their head as a kid and you just created the most powerful generation ever. In Haneke’s universe, the puzzle is more interesting and it becomes more interesting again when you don’t need to know who done it. This movie didn’t have any violence shot on it, just like what Haneke always did. But, it makes it more disturbing and unsettling because your mind is just so wild when you try to think about it.

“The White Ribbon” is a well-crafted movie. It fulls of domestic drama, performed with the precision, acting, slow-burn pace with great performance. It reminds of classic films such as Fritz Lang’s “M” and Akira Kurosawa’sRashomon“, especially what I feel. But, the thing about Michael Haneke isn’t about its simplicity and complexity. It’s about how fear and evil appear suddenly, like panic attacks. In contrast, the ribbon is a symbolism of the children of their well-being. It becomes more tragic if you know how all of the characters just appear suddenly without vanity. They become insane and destroyed in the black and white universe. Above all, It’s vital and powerful.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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