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Movie Review: The White Ribbon: A German Children's Story

Alternate Title: A Town Without Pity

Story: Do not be fooled by writer/director Michael Haneke's subtitle (A German Children's Story) that he uses for his latest film. This is no fairy tale. As his narrator says at the very beginning of the film, there were a series of strange events that happened in his village that 'could perhaps clarify some things that happened in this country.' That country is, of course, Germany. The film opens a year before the onset of WWI. The setting is a farming village under patriarchal rule via the Baron, who controls the village's economy and the Pastor, who controls the strict Protestant code of morality.

A spate of bad things happen in this tiny village over a very short period of time. Accidents, death, beatings, torture, animal abuse, incest and unrelenting punishment are ordinary occurrences that seem to go on behind closed doors with the villagers remaining silent as to the perpetrators of these deeds. Haneke seems to suggest that the seeds of Fascism may have been caused by villages like this one where life was dismal, oppressive, punishing and brutal.

The narrator is the voice of the school teacher who is revisiting that year from the safety of the distance of time. The film looks carefully at the children of this village, who will grow up in 20 years to become the Third Reich standard bearers.

You will undoubtedly have lots to discuss after seeing this powerful film. How do children grow up to become monsters? The cycle of retribution and punishment in a life that had few pleasures and where forgiveness was slow to come can only lead to a climate of fear and destruction.

Should you see this film? Yes you should. Be prepared to be touched on many levels. The final scene will raise the little hairs on the back of your neck.

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BE_ByB2ocVk

Watch an interview with Michael Haneke on The White Ribbon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK0tE4OqktY

Acting: An outstanding cast all around including: Ulrich Tukur (the Baron), Susanne Lothar (the Midwife), Christian Friedel (the Schoolteacher), Burghart Klaussner (the Pastor), Leonie Benesch (Eva), Josef Bierbichler (the Steward), Rainer Bock (the Doctor), Ernst Jacobi (the Narrator), Ursina Lardi (Marie-Louise, the Baroness), Fion Mutert (Sigmund), Branko Samarovski (the Farmer), Leonard Proxauf (Martin),Maria- Victoria Dragus (Klara) and Michael Kranz (the Tutor)

Trivia: Director Michael Haneke's movies are know for short outbursts of violence, the use of extremely long static takes and he uses no film score. The White Ribbon has been nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics Choice award. It won the Palm d'Or at Cannes. It is Germany's entry into this year's Oscar race.

Predilection: I like to see films that are nominated for major awards.

Critters: A horse and a bird that do not fare well.

Food: Food is withheld as punishment.

Sex Spectrum: Creepy innuendos of incest and some quick coupling in a dining room. Wait until you see what happens to a young boy who's father thinks he is touching the forbidden zone of his body.

Opening Titles: Black background with white type.

Visual Art: The film is in stark black and white and is visually arresting by director of photography, Christian Berger.

Theater Audience: About 20 other very quiet people.

Weather: We get to view the four seasons in this small German town.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 3

Drift Factor: I did not drift at all.

Predictability Level: I had not a clue as to what was going to happen.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: It is Germany's entry into this year's Oscar race.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine.

Length: Overly long at 2 ours and 20 minutes. Well over the two hour Lobo rule.