Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery.
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From July, 1913 to the outbreak of World War I, a series of incidents take place in a German village. A horse trips on a wire and throws the rider; a woman falls to her death through rotted planks; the local baron's son is hung upside down in a mill; parents slap and bully their children; a man is cruel to his long-suffering lover; another sexually abuses his daughter. People disappear. A callow teacher, who courts a nanny in the baron's household, narrates the story and tries to investigate the connections among these accidents and crimes. What is foreshadowed? Are the children holy innocents? God may be in His heaven, but all is not right with the world; the center cannot hold. Written by
Nurturing Fascism Somewhere in Black and White Germany
During the course of the year before WWI, a series of tragic and suspicious looking incidents take place in a small farming village somewhere in black and white Germany. The culprit or the culprits behind the crime wave will not be too easy to find.
The doctor, the priest, the baron and the teacher who also narrates the film form the elite of the village. We get to know each one of them and a few other villagers along with children of this village, calm on the surface but deeply tormented by an undercurrent of brutality, envy, malice and apathy.
The children's natural path to maturity is blocked by strict religious morality, cruelly enforced by the priest, thereby inhibiting their personal observation of the world around them. The priest feeds children with guilt and sexual repression instead of love and punishes even their most innocent mistakes. Certainly this environment will make it easy for them to not only accept but seek ruthless authority later in life.
As might be expected, love in this town is restrained and uneasy, while incest and affairs are overlooked by villagers. The Baron employs half of the village in his farm, yet almost no one seems to be against feudalism, nor rise up against the accidents that happen in the workplace. Social justice is a stranger to town, yet villagers are entrenched in apathy.
If adults do not face up the truth, however this truth might be against their convictions, rise up and take charge, then who will? And according to whose morality? Isn't fascism with racism, in short Nazism, misdirected popular anger and an easy response to deep injustices within a society ? Haneke observes mostly psychological, educational and religious roots of Nazism while leaving economic aspects mostly in the background.
Visuals of the film are very solid. The symmetry in the shots and the tidiness of the houses, even of those belonging to the poor farmers hint at the discipline and rigor Germans are well known for. Acting is top notch by the whole cast, especially children's faces beam just like in Bergman films. Directing was superb.
Haneke uses a village and a narrator similar in essence to Lars Von Trier's Dogville, still these two movies are clearly different.
Das Weisse Band has also some similarities to Cache, but just one notch less satisfying than his masterpiece which had a slightly more intriguing and fulfilling story. This movie is made more accessible by Haneke with his choice of more obvious tips, where sometimes characters talk directly about the situation. But in a time and age when people are battling too many problems and drug themselves with TV and easy payoffs who could blame Haneke?
Given the current global economic conditions and the fanaticism running high across all three major religions, this is a must-see movie for anyone caring about the future of our global village to avoid a Le Temps du Loup type of ending!
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