• James Rutherford

‘The White Ribbon’: The Haunting Tale of a German Village Wrought with Inexplicable Malevolence


Movie poster for the German film The White Ribbon starring Christian Friedel and Leonie Benesch

“The White Ribbon” (2009) is a stark and haunting black-and-white German-language drama, set in a fictitious northern German village between 1913 and 1914, immediately preceding the onset of World War I. The story is narrated by an elderly tailor as he reminisces on his youthful service as a schoolteacher (Christian Friedel) in the village, where he also first encounters his future wife Eva (Leonie Benesch). Despite the looming authority of the village pastor (Burghart Klaußner), doctor (Rainer Bock) and baron (Ulrich Tukur), however, the citizens are bedeviled by a series of gruesome deaths and grievous accidents that leave their quaint community overcome with shades of panic and dread. Written and directed by esteemed Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke (“Caché”, “Amour”), “The White Ribbon” is an ominous yet remarkably absorbing tale of oppression and authoritarianism, with the ensuing birth of fascism lending a darkly foreboding undercurrent to the storyline’s often macabre developments. Described by Haneke himself as depicting “the roots of evil”, it’s a masterful, chilling and starkly memorable cinematic experience not to be missed.

 

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