Thursday, 26 November 2009

Das Weiβe Band (The White Ribbon)- Michael Haneke 2009

Here are a few paragraphs on my immediate impressions of the film. By no means do I incorporate everything that can be said as it has great depth and substance. I simply want to highlight the overarching themes that I felt were important. My views are pointless in isolation, I openly welcome anyone who has seen the film to complete the dialogue: fill in any gaps, strengthen some of my flimsily thrown out ideas or to tear it to pieces, completely disagreeing with what I write.


I always thought I was dead against voice overs; that they are a lazy way of storytelling, spoon feeding you the narrative rather than letting the film speak for itself. Well this film made me realise that I am only dead against anonymous, omnipresent voiceovers. The one in this film is so personal and direct as it comes from one of the only sympathetic characters in the whole film. It is one of the tools used to reinforce the fact that the story is being told from an objective point of view. Another element supporting this is that right from the very beginning – through said voice over narration – it is declared that memories are funny things. A brilliant way of making it explicit early on that this is an objective point of view, a story but one which it declares will “hopefully explain what happened to this country”. This gives you the bigger picture from the start. You are instructed - in a non-forceful way - to see this village as a microcosm representing the whole country; that the young characters represent the youth of the nation. The film takes us to the start of the First World War, but more importantly - as the film critic Mark Kermode rightly points out - it is the children here who will reach adulthood during - and therefore be mostly responsible for - the rise of the third Reich.

Terrifying Kids (especially Klara – who is one eerie but immensely powerful and articulate figure)

The youth are completely fed up with the treatment they receive from the older generations. The film shows a variety of family/community settings and how the children are undervalued, unappreciated, sexually abused or repressed to a point of insanity. And my goodness are they plentiful; there are numerous shots families where the children swamp the screen, vastly outnumbering their elders, which really puts an exclamation mark on the fact that the old generation (along with all their values) are going to be viciously overthrown. The only middle ground / glimmer of hope is the relationship between the teacher and Eva. These are very important characters that differ from almost everyone else in the village, mainly that they both seem to have healthy relationships with their parents. Eva’s dad embarrasses her but at least he speaks plainly, doesn’t repress what he feels and expresses his disdain for ridiculous formality. More importantly is that both their parents do not live with them within this damned village (a representation of the whole nation – see below) and they are not products of the society within. This is possibly most important when he attempts to explain the situation as he sees it to the Pastor, who is so enmeshed with a culture of repression that he casts the teacher out. The teacher was so alien to this culture he could not even grasp why this was, anticipate that this would be the outcome of this conversation or even recognise that this repression existed, therefore he let it go on. This could be a comment on those who were not enthusiastically pro-Nazi but just did not do enough to stop them.


Whether the film justifies this youth-led rebellion is left for the viewer to decide. It shows their reasons for it, i.e. the captivity they were being held in; a captivity that is clearly symbolised by the Pastor’s caged bird. The fact that Klara kills the bird and leaves it as a symbol for her father to find shows the youths intention to fight this incarceration. To further accentuate the injustice of his contradictions, the Pastor keeps in that cage, the healed bird; the bird he told his son he must release back into the wild.

I really could go on, but it really would be... well ‘going on’. I have tried to make this concise and focused and in case I didn’t make the point clearly I think it is a tremendous film.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! I thought the film was tremendously powerful and, as mentioned, Klara and Martin are incredible roles - visually, the thought of Klara and Martin standing outside of your window throwing rocks is pretty scary. I thought the complete hypocrisy of the elders are also a major factor - these elders break the rules. The Pastor does not enforce fair justice and the relatioship between the doctor and woman shows a complete lack of respect for women and family - soemthing the children are forced to respect.