Release Date
December 30, 2009
Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke
Distributed By
X Filme
$18 million
Crime, Drama, Foreign, Mystery
Rated R for some disturbing content involving violence and sexuality
144 minutes

The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band)

Earlier this year, The White Ribbon was in contention for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (as well as Best Cinematography). Though I have/had not viewed the other nominated films, The White Ribbon came off as a rather strong, Oscar-worthy endeavor. Come award night, an Argentinean film The Secret In Their Eyes (coming out later this fall)won the award . However, until I have a chance to view the winning film, I still feel as though The White Ribbon deserved the gold statue.

The White Ribbon rarely presents itself as a foreign language film. Of course, there are subtitles to make it that, but in all regards, the film absorbs the viewer effectively enough to make them forget they do not know the language (unless they took German class for three years, as I did in high school). The film is a period piece set between July 1913 and August 1914, played out in black and white. The film could have easily taken place at anytime, in any location (at times this film felt even older) and still received the same reaction.

The eeriness of the film is the a huge component in keeping the viewer absorbed. Two hours of subtitles and black & white film stock could easily bore the average person, but the film had enough going for it to keep a person’s interest intact. The story was twistingly complex, placing the viewer in the middle of a mystery. Very few answers are actually given throughout the film and the ending is left ambiguous, leaving open-ended several options as to what actually occurred. Subtlety was a major component of the film, never appearing extravagant, yet never coming off anti-climatic. There was constantly a new underlying relationship or cruel twist that surfaced to keep the German town it portrayed in disarray. By the end, you felt as though you knew these people and that you had lived with them for years.

In few other films have I viewed so many amazing performances delivered by children. The very young children could break your heart, including the pastor‘s son, with his broken winged bird or the doctor‘s son whose questions about death hit at the heart of the privied. The girls could also melt your heart, or they could be cold and concise, like the leading young lady, whose constant stares are the chilling force of the entire film. The boys were rascals one moment and vigilantes the next. The children, by far, out-act the adults in The White Ribbon.

The costumes of the film were spot-on and the cinematography earned its nomination, allowing one to practically see the color through the black & white, particularly the scenes of nature, where the swaying wheat or the towering trees practically popped out of the screen with brilliance.

With absolutely no expectations going into the film, the realization of the darkness of the film was reminiscent of stories like Children of the Corn and Tommyknockers. I felt as though anything and everything could happen in the film’s plot, with deaths and injuries inflicted around every corner, all while keeping the probability of these occurrences and the real-to-life nature of these emotions. Though the film did not come through on Oscar night, The White Ribbon still feels award winning and will continue to be one of the best foreign films I have ever seen. If you want to know what the film has to do with a white ribbon, then you will just have to watch the film for yourself.


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