From its startling opening image of a horse tumbling over a trip wire and violently dislodging its rider, The White Ribbon traces a series of increasingly sinister "accidents" that befall the residents of a rural German village in the days preceding the start of the First World War. The young son of a wealthy baron is caned and hung upside down in a sawmill. Another boy, the mentally disabled son of a midwife, is nearly blinded; an anonymous note strung around his neck states that the children are being punished for the sins of their parents. Gradually, one schoolteacher’s suspicions begin to fall on the children themselves. In its broadest sense a portrait of the formative years of the Nazi generation, Michael Haneke’s meticulous social drama – shot in stunning black-and-white and featuring an extraordinary cast of nonprofessional child actors – continues its maker’s career-spanning fascination with the brutality lurking beneath society’s placid facades, while taking his artistry to a new level of accomplishment.
Part of our Michael Haneke season