The White Ribbon (‘Das Weisse Band’)

DRAMA; 2hr 24min (German with subtitles)

STARRING: Christian Friedel, Ulrich Tukur, Rainer Bock

Strange journey: Friedel and Leonie Benesch

Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Hidden) has filmed his 2009 Palme d’Or–winning psychological riddle in black-and-white. Stripped of music, its austere composition both evokes the pre–World War I period in which the eerie events take place and creates an underlying sense of irony since so much of what happens is uncertain.


What is definite is that evil breeds more evil in a repressive Protestant German village. Its doctor (Bock) is badly injured when his horse is brought down by a maliciously strung wire. The young son (Fion Mutert) of a powerful local landowner (Tukur) is badly beaten. According to the schoolteacher (Friedel), who narrates as a much older man (Ernst Jacobi), the villagers are in a tizz over these incidents — but you’d never know it from the po-faced look of them. The children, in particular, are so subdued it is borderline sinister. But that doesn’t mean they’re devoid of the strong emotion and base instinct that happen to be Haneke’s stock in trade. His quiet, careful orchestration of vindictiveness, suspicion and doubt prickles with the suspense of baffling ambiguity.