the white ribbon
i don´t why i find it so difficult to talk about this film. i just saw it last weekend for the first time and was so tense and had such ungood feelings in me that i couldn´t even just go home after having seen it, and had to go around the block in this misty, cold night and go for a drink.
first of all, almost needless to say, the photography is merely beautiful and the storytelling so radically minimal, ascetic and full of openness and secrets and mystery, that you simply have to call it a masterpiece. no doubt about that. the pictures often reminded me of the danish painter vilhelm hammershoi, who i very dearly love and who also focuses on backs, doors, empty rooms, silent and somber atmospheres, -but always in a very delicate and fragile way.
-one thing i found really haunting about this film was the voices. the way these children spoke german and pronounced the words. the slowness and carefulness. as if dead children were speaking. i can´t call it anything else but haunting.
a lot of dreyer and early bergman and bresson was also quite visible.
i know very little about this time, the beginning of world war one. maybe the most through kafka or heinrich mann, but i don´t know if i can really agree with what the film suggests about it.
i do agree about how authoritative relations and societies, repression and punishment will lead to a fetishization of the same and the things that are negotiated as sins, crimes or perversion. punishment evokes revenge, repression evokes eruption and prohibitions evoke transgressions.
that´s pretty evident.
i also like the way we, as an audience, are lead to believe in some kind of conspiracy behind all the strange and terrible incidents, although most probably one thing doesn´t have anything to do with the next. we start to raise suspicion and in the end it really seems to us as if the children were some kind of conspirative, evil force, standing behind all of it. probably also because we know, historically, that these children will be the nazis in 20 years from the time of the film. although there is really no evidence, except for the killing of a bird as an act of revenge and the throwing of the baron´s boy in a lake out of anger, that the children are in charge of any of it.
but precisely this is what makes the film so intrigueing. we are always looking for someone in charge, for someone to be responsible and in guilt. there is a constant suspicion (dürrenmatt).
that immediately reminded me of the persecution of the "witches", the jews, the communists, the gays, the gypsies, and all the other poor scapegoats of history. this is probably connected to the belief in "sin" and "evil" as entities in general.
dürrenmatt writes in Problems of the Theatre, 1955:
"The universal for me is chaos. The world (hence the stage which represents this world) is for me something monstrous, a riddle of misfortunes which must be accepted but before which one must not capitulate. The world is far bigger than any man, and perforce threatens him constantly. If one could but stand outside the world, it would no longer be threatening. But I have neither the right nor the ability to be an outsider to this world. To find solace in poetry can also be all too cheap; it is more honest to retain one's human point of view."
In The Pledge, 1958 he writes:
"The trouble is that in all these mystery stories an altogether different kind of fraud is perpetrated. I am not even referring to the fact that the criminal has his punishment meter out to him. Such pretty fairy-tales are morally necessary too, I suppose. They are in the same class with the other lies that help preserve the State, like that pious phrase that crime does not pay, whereas anyone has only to look at human society to find out how much truth there is in that... No, what really annoys me is the plot in your novels. Here the fraud becomes too raw and shameless. You built your plots up logically, like a chess game; here the criminal, here the victim, here the accomplice, here the master mind. The detective need only know the rules and play the game over, and he has the criminal trapped, has won a victory for justice. This fiction infuriates me. Reality can be only partially attacked by logic."
haneke is really good at that, his film certainly isn´t logical. but what is really so strange is that except for two girls (the baron´s shy and darling nanny and later in the film a girl who has pity for a disabled boy who will be tortured and cries) noone is this entire film has any kind of passion or altruism in their faces. they act like controlled automats. and this makes things so unbelievable to me. because i know, that even though society was repressive and authoritative and compulsive, people did nonetheless laugh and were at times joyous and playful. and this of course makes the way history went even more mysterious and incomprehensible, because these people were precisely not controlled automats, but people that were not fundamentally different to us.
it´s a very strange and sinister dynamic the way these terrible ideologies progress and lead to the most abysmal atrocities. and i don´t think the human is a wolf in hobbes sense. neither do i follow rousseau. but i really did miss the light of some kind of humanity in this film. maybe that´s my personal ideology, i don´t know. one of the most striking and phenomenal scenes to me, was when the little boy brings his father a new bird.
haneke is indeed outstanding with his kid actors.
but i still don´t know so sure about what this film really left me with. maybe that´s what´s so good about it.