The White Ribbon doesn’t provide any resolution but it’s a subtlety unnerving film with bleak yet artful cinematography and great performances.

In a village in Protestant northern Germany, on the eve of World War I, the children of a church and school run by the village schoolteacher and their families experience a series of bizarre incidents that inexplicably assume the characteristics of a punishment ritual. Who could be responsible for such bizarre transgressions? Leonie Benesch, Josef Bierbichler, and Rainer Bock star in director Michael Haneke’s Palm d’Or-winning period drama. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

The black and white cinematography captures the town in still frames, creating a bleak and foreboding atmosphere. It’s one part social commentary on the life in a rural village dedicated to piety, and three parts the horror of patriarchal totalitarianism.

Underneath its simple and orderly structure, the town is driven by the authority of three men. However this authority is practiced through power and predation, even on their children. On top of this, their innocence is squashed by the adults as they deal with death, adultery, abuse, and malice.

As the violence increased in the village, tension and suspicion was further enhanced by the strong performances of the whole cast, especially the children.

While the film has successfully used tension and atmosphere to create mystery and horror through implied brutality, it does not provide any resolution. The overall film is gloomy and the characters aren’t relatable. The only bit of respite can be found in the romance of a pudgy-faced school teacher and a 17-year old nanny.

The White Ribbon only aims to show religious hypocrisy and violence underneath the guise of innocence. With this it has succeeded as a horrific yet thought provoking social commentary, albeit hopeless.

My Rating: 8/10

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