By Kierran Horner.

The White Ribbon (2009) is about guilt. It is another film by Michael Haneke about guilt. But it would be reductive to suggest that The White Ribbon was something as simple as a macrocosmic, German Hidden (Caché, 2005); an analysis of the guilt felt by a nation for its treatment of another. Yet, Ribbon is, similarly, a study of a collective guilt, every individual’s complicit support of such aberrations as war, the Algerian War, the First and Second World Wars, or even those more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Haneke here asks what sort of society can allow such things? How does society disintegrate, fragment, putrefy even, enough to allow such atrocities?

It is a study in detail, as Haneke’s incisive writing and intimate camera-work permeate the pores and psyches of the inhabitants of this pre-First World War German village, an austere and silent world, in search of humanity’s excuses. He concentrates close-ups on the haggard faces of older villagers, as in Bela Tarr’s Satantango (1994), or any of the inhabitants of Bresson, Bergman and Tarkovsky’s works before him, and, like those great directors, these faces are filmed in lush black and white, in Haneke’s first monochrome feature.

There is no incidental music as the film opens slowly on scenes of pastoral beauty, the serenity pervaded, however, by the voice of a narrator. A voice that confesses that the story he is about to relay may be lacking a degree of accuracy: ‘I don’t know if the story I want to tell is entirely true.’ It is not solely his story and, consequently, he is not afforded the omniscience of a god.

Haneke presents the subjects of his camera’s scrutiny, fans out the instruments he will use and the theory he will apply, at the outset, as every good surgeon of the human condition should. The narrator describes the events unfolding before us; ‘the doctor’ returns home from riding at ‘the Baron’s’ estate’, whereupon the horse is tripped by a wire tied between two trees and the doctor clatters heavily to the turf. His daughter, we are told, witnesses ‘the accident from a window’ and we see a young girl rush from the house, hesitating slightly when passing the lamed horse, to attend to her father.

Next, we see a group of children outside the village school, strangely too present, reprimanded for arrogance and impertinence by a middle-aged woman, as she collects her own child, Karli, who evidently has Down’s syndrome, from the school. Here the teacher stands, revealing himself as narrator, as he describes the children before him, how they ‘head to the exit of the village, rather than disperse to their own homes after school’.

The subsequent scene is of the children, having heard of the doctor’s accident, appearing at his house. They do not knock on a door, but instead they spray a window with pebbles, whereupon the doctor’s daughter, hesitant again, showing signs of anxiety, fear even, opens the window to talk to them.

Village of the Damned

Already, with the unnerving ‘gang’ of blonde village children there is a note of the German director Wolf Rilla’s exceedingly English Village of the Damned (1960); a foreboding phantom of the preternatural crackles in the staid country air. Haneke alludes to guilt, a generational dissemination, and, through Rilla’s film, the supernatural, but these themes are indistinct and fused, even as he focuses on them.

As mentioned, Haneke is, once, again, mining the rich vein of guilt that runs deep in many, most, or even all of us. Early in Ribbon we witness two of the village pastor’s children, Clara and Martin, admonished by their father for being late to return home from school; they were, of course, at the doctor’s house with the rest of ‘the gang’. The pastor hangs about their demure frames, all manner of fibs concerning his wife running around the village in tears looking for them, in his intention to enhance their feelings of guilt, concluding that they are to be severely punished, that they must learn ‘mutual respect’. Evoked here is a sense of a morality imposed; respect, guilt, a sense of crime and punishment, synthetically felt; a fraudulence in the relations between old and young.

Here also is the first allusion to the titular ribbon. As part of their punishment, along with no supper and a thrashing to be dealt the next evening, the pastor reiterates that each child must wear a strip of white ribbon, again, to remind them of innocence, purity and faith. Later, when the pastor’s wife cuts the ribbon for the children’s arm and hair respectively, she does so as if she knows exactly how much there needs be, this action has been performed before. There is a repetition to faith, and good faith can be learnt, or at least taught, by rote.

After the reprimand and before the punishment, Martin is witnessed walking on the railing of a bridge over a river, in the woodland surrounding the village, tempting fate, or more likely God, to let him, or even cause him to, fall. When questioned by the teacher, who has also observed this puerile act of faith, Martin remarks that he ‘gave God a chance to kill [him]. He didn’t and therefore he is pleased with [him].’ He thinks that God is happy with him, he has his own personal faith, but he fears his father, god’s emissary, as he cannot embrace his exacting, manufactured beliefs.

There is here a clue to the film’s future exposition, the revelations to come. Adults burden their offspring with their own guilt, fear etc. and, thereby, contaminating them, corrupting their innocence; Martin gambles with his life, in a misguided act of faith, and the doctor’s daughter, Ana, lingers over the fallen horse, for a microscopic moment thinking of it rather than her seriously injured father; the unreasoned actions of the young a consequence of the adults behaviour?

There are many examples of these bequeathed debasements, some subtle, some painfully exposed, and of the influence these have on both generations. Four instances – one for each of the four men at the centre of the film – stand out. The first we are offered is the pastor’s youngest son approaching his father in his office to request permission to keep an injured bird he has found. The pastor explains that his own bird, ‘Peepsie’, is used to captivity but the wounded one would not be and stresses that the boy would have to commit to being ‘both Mother and Father’ to the fledgling; thus imposing adult roles onto this boy of six or seven years old.
Much later in the film we find out that the doctor sexually molests his daughter. In a scene to which I will return again later, he is unveiled as a callous, vicious brute, his mistress, the local midwife and mother of Karli, Mrs Wagner, reveals that he has been ‘fingering’ his daughter, who is now 14 or 15 years old; flaunting the distinct boundaries set by society between adult and child, father and daughter.

Thirdly, there is the Baron, whose wife, we learn near the conclusion of the film, wants to leave the village and him, as she cannot bear her two children growing up in an environment of ‘malice, envy, apathy, brutality’. To this he reacts as a despotic dictator, physically shaking with anger and recrimination. His reaction is interrupted by his steward before it can escalate, but proceeds for long enough for the audience to know that the Baroness is not just referring to the ‘environment’ outside of the home, if at all.

The fourth example is the subtlest, because it involves our semi-trusted narrator, but also as he himself is seemingly unaware, for most of the film, of what is transpiring in the village and his position within it. He is, for now, the most innocent, of the four. After he has met and meekly courted the governess at the Baron’s estate, Eva, he visits her father to discuss marriage, where he is questioned and admits that he is, in fact, 31, whereas Eva is only 17. Her father states, not without a humour that suffuses the entire sequence, that the teacher is old enough to be her father. Our narrator is guilty, to an extent, of the same infringements as the pastor and the doctor, however immune he is to the idea of this corruption.

Indeed, still later in the narrative, the teacher tries to take Eva in a cart for a picnic, but she refuses to allow him to take her to a clearing in the woods. She fears him as an adult, a potential corruptor of her childhood innocence. On understanding her qualms he says ‘I had no improper intentions’, which, in this context is almost an admonition of his guilt. He acquiesces and Eva offers him a brief kiss as payment.

These four examples represent each of the four major authority figures in the village as transgressors of childhood innocence, to one or other extreme. Via these men of esteem and prominence, who, along with the above corruptions of minors, all influence the lives of others and history beyond, there is at least a hint of the Marquis de Sade’s Les 120 Journées de Sodome. Obviously, marrying de Sade and the wider political future on the not too distant horizon, the thought of Pasolini’s Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), is also roused. So, then, added to the slide under Haneke’s microscope, is the devouring disease of war.

These influential men of science, education, God and commerce, trusted members of a small community, are in fact, nefarious corruptors. One could not quite accuse Haneke’s village pillars of the amorality, or vicious, villainous debasements of the Marquis’ quartet of Salò, with its surfeit of libertine degeneracy. Yet there are hints at their crimes evolving into gradually escalating abominations in the future, on the one plane, and on another, they also point to Pasolini’s contemporaneously politicised adaptation.

Yet, this evidence would position the parents (the pastor, doctor and Baron are fathers, too), the allegedly auspicious adults, as the perpetrators, ‘the evil ones’, which would be too uncomplicated a calculation for Haneke. The children too, may be the malevolent miscreant torturers and arsonists, begetters of the various ‘accidents’ that befall the village. As mentioned previously, Haneke paints them as German cousins, or possible ancestors, of John Wyndham’s supernaturally intelligent brood from Midwich, projected onto the screen by Rilla.

Haneke’s’ juvenile ‘gang’, which seems to be led by the pastor’s eldest children, Klara and Martin, are immediately positioned as an ominous group, even if only by the standards of idyllic early 20th century village life, with the teacher’s comments about their odd behaviour, such as the scattering of pebbles on the doctor’s window to gain attention. Yet, inviting Rilla’s clique as a parallel, their symbiosis, garners the film with a supernaturalism beyond facile idiosyncrasy.

The children are often discovered hovering outside doors and windows, but when challenged, have sweet and innocent excuses and are exceedingly polite, like those in Village; an ominous omnipresence. Their implied veil of innocence extends so far that they are all, with one quick panning shot as evidence, members of the choir. Yet, of course, for Haneke, inclusion in a clichéd collective of Christian cherubs does not proffer innocence, but the very opposite.

Rilla’s film incorporates the four authority figures, who attempt to control the children, impose a ‘human’ morality on them and whose efforts inevitably end in tragedy, although, unsurprisingly, this quartet are not filtered through de Sade. Yet, more important than these, potentially coincidental, common denominators, is the aesthetic, the ‘look’ of the children. In both films they replicate and represent an exceptionally pretty and handsome, perfect even, super-race; a collective, sinister power with blonde barnets. Put simply, an Aryan race.

Once they are established as foreboding brats, they are then intrinsically linked with the happenstances that occur throughout the film, such as the doctor’s horse being tripped by the hidden wire, just as the children of Rilla’s film ‘create’ punishments for the adults who intend to oppose them. They are suspects of acts of sabotage and torture, which are inherently associated with an insinuated preternatural.

The second ‘accident’ is the death of an elderly, female peasant, in an accident at the Baron’s Mill. The woman is part of a large family, the Fenlons, for whom the death will have wide-reaching repercussions. The third, the sabotage of the Baron’s cabbages after the annual harvest; for which, we are told, ‘normality returns’, and tripping on its heels, the fourth event is the disappearance and torture of the Baron’s son Sigi. These events re-unite the village, ‘but in horror and perplexity’. All of these ‘accidents’ would seem, also, to involve, passively or tenuously, the Baron, which indeed, they do. Haneke looks to implicate the Baron further, in the scene where he has just learnt of Sigi’s absence. He descends a grandiose staircase and the chiaroscuro, oblique angles and crooked framing created by the banisters recall nothing but that most disorientating of styles, German Expressionism. More than just a reminiscence, through the incipient Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (Wiene, 1920), practically any Murnau or Lang film of the 1920’s or the derivative and exaggerated The Love of Zero (Florey, 1927), the Baron is positioned as so many maniacal, and/or supernatural, villains; a Caligari, a Mabuse or a Nosferatu.

The narrator imposes on us the notion that Sigi is ‘tortured’, yet he is ‘only’ whipped across the bottom. Although Haneke’s script would, elusively, suggest that the children are the floggers; Sigi was seen ‘go[ing] off with other children’ before he was tortured; those who inflicted the flogging are, to the villagers, unknown.

The next incident is Mrs Wagner’s son Karli’s disappearance, who, when found, the torturers have attempted to blind and look to have lacerated his tongue. Apart from the obvious difference between the degree of Sigi and Karli’s tortures, Karli is also discovered with a note, which reveals a motive for both, that the torturers are ‘punishing the children for the sins of their parents.’ What crimes have Mrs Wagner, the doctor, or the Baron committed? Whatever they are, someone, ‘the children’, are meting out a draconian justice, for them.

It is also implied that when the steward’s newborn baby boy is ill, with a cold on his chest, the window in his room has been purposely left open. After the doctor visits to check on the baby, the tot’s three older siblings are positioned in poses about the living room that are unnervingly mature; the girl sat knitting, one boy sat in a chair, in contemplation, and the other son at the window, hands thrust into his pockets, gazing after the doctor. Haneke infuses this composition with threat, it is uncomfortable to watch children impose a maturity on themselves too soon. This angst emanates from the notion that the children have been made to mature too quickly and therefore respond with punishments upon their parents, or their peers. Or, are there previous crimes for which the adults have not been chastised, and the children are then forced to do so, in the stead of a reliable system of justice?

These tortures and attempted murders, are, as well as being euphemistically referred to as ‘accidents’ by our faithful narrator, enshrouded in mystery, and ambiguity. Erna, the steward’s daughter recounts to the teacher her dream-premonitions about Karli, before the event of his punishment, that he will be tortured, and admits that she had similar dreams warning her that the newest member of her family would be taken ill. But once the latter turned out to be true, she was afraid to say anything. Of course, the teacher is suspicious, believing that she knew of both events as she was implicated as witness or perpetrator. However, as he contemplates Erna’s words at a window, drawing the net curtain aside, he reveals a cross, a crucifix, made by the window frame. (Note: this exact shot appears in Rilla’s film, when Gordon decides to sacrifice himself for the greater good of the community.)

The symbolism of Jesus’ cross is also alluded to when the pastor finds his pet bird Peepsie, and it has a pair of scissors impaled in its head, the blades splayed. In this way, religion, dreams and the supernatural are linked, but deeper than this, yet still superficially, sacrifice is evoked. That of the children, the village, the people.

There is, also worthy of mention, a fire at the Baron’s barn, which may have been started, by ‘the children’ but, just as easily, it could have begun as any barn fire in a village such as this begins; through a misplaced cigarette end, an upended lamp. The pastor’s children are awoken in the night and watch from the window, the flames reflected on their faces, the window frame, in a mirroring of the framing of the Baron on his stairwell after Sigi’s disappearance, projected onto the wall at an oblique, expressionistic slant.
The narrator-teacher, is frequently casting these accidents together as if one malignant force has perpetrated them all, yet they are not all linked. The teacher’s attempt to prescribe the paranormal on these resonating events is an instrument of Haneke’s investigation. We are not to trust the teacher or any one of these characters, the pastor, doctor or the Baron.

Haneke, as ever, makes sure nothing is easily concluded. When the doctor returns from hospital he almost immediately inspects the tree around which the wire that tripped his horse was wound, as if to assure himself it was real. The notion of a fabulous involvement is slowly corroded: the wire disappeared, with no witness, yet, it does leave a visible, verifiable mark, which Haneke’s camera focuses on with intent.

There is something malignant brooding in the rural silence, but it is not something supernatural. An ‘invisible, static, odourless force’ as Rilla/Lewis would have it. Such a conclusion would have been something of a new direction for Haneke. However, it would, also, offer an easy/ier route to be taken by those who wish to, the teacher, say, or the pastor, and, of course, ‘the people’, including us, the audience.

It is probable that the ambiguity, the fear, the superstition, the cold, ingrained anxiety, that is advanced, perpetuated, by the teacher through his monologue is the product of an era, an era that sees the transformation of the world on the horizon, but, without preternatural perception, cannot decipher it, quite yet. It is more likely that, rather than a brood of malevolent, demonic spirits, these are the children that will become the malevolent, demonic men and women of the First and Second World Wars, and beyond.

The supernatural is merely a by-product of an attempt to interrogate reason when reason has been abandoned; there can be no justification for what happens next. That the children hang around outside Mrs Wagner’s house after the torture of Karli, where it is believed Karli is recovering, his mother having locked him in, seemingly through apprehension that someone will get in and mutilate him again, is a cold fact. If these children are the junior Aryan race, Mrs Wagner would do well to fear for her disabled son. Yet, as it stands there is no contemporaneous or logical rationale for her actions, just a ‘feeling’, an unjustified fear. The scene, then, invites a reading of the supernatural, it becomes a premonition in/of itself.

An unearthly reading is invited to excuse, and maybe justify, the actions of these villagers, and millions more like them, but it is the relations between generations that are more pertinent when blame is to be apportioned.

Haneke brilliantly highlights the ‘cause-and-effect’ nature of the generational relationships in the film, that history is repercussive, through his use of creating a further, deeper meaning between juxtaposed scenes. Of course, this tool is at least as old as Eisenstein’s Strike (1925), and has been put to use by almost every director since, especially, say, Buñuel in his later French period, but Haneke creates scenes which have a symbiosis, a mutual influence flowing back and forth.

Two brief examples of the above are when the doctor’s horse is put down, and dragged away, the music of Schubert filters into the shot from the scene following, creating incongruity in this scene, but also somehow suggesting that the horse is being dragged into the adjacent one; which happens to be one set in the Baron’s house, where the cherubic Sigi is introduced in lingering close-up. Haneke also uses this technique to elicit stygian humour, amongst other emotions, in a later scene where Georg, the steward, whips his son with a birch switch, the Baron’s voice bleeds from the subsequent scene, talking of the growth of birches on his land.

However, Haneke employs this suturing device between other scenes to more significance. In an early scene, another representation of the adult conveyance of shame and guilt onto the next generation, the pastor tells Martin the story of an unnamed boy who cannot sleep or eat and, deteriorating, consequently dies, ‘leaving the corpse of an old man’. This boy is ‘joyless’, ‘won’t meet his parents’ eye’ and, implies the pastor, to his son’s tear-streaked face, all because he dared to masturbate. For this depravity too, Martin will nightly be bound, so he will not be tempted to transgress upon his earthly person.

Milkmaid (Johannes Vermeer)

Here is, of course, religious idiocy, but also, as another exemplar of this inflicted conscience, it is imperative to the intent of the following sequence: Straight from the scene of the barn-fire, the shot of the pastor’s sons standing at the window gazing on, we cut to one of a Fenlon son passing through a courtyard to a barn, chickens flying about evoking Hidden, opening a door and finding his father hanged from a hook on a stone-wall. He closes the door and the camera follows him to the house, where he collapses on a stair; his sister at a sink to the left of frame, positioned by a window, preparing food, mimicking Johannes Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance or Milkmaid.

One must assume that it is the burden of the eldest Fenlon son’s crime (he is unearthed as the cabbage-destroyer, an act of revenge for the death of his mother), and the repercussions from this, that have pushed the father to suicide. The Fenlons must defer to the Estate, the father previously admonishing his son for his reprisal, and, in time, the Baron denies the family work on his land. The cause is revenge and violence and the father’s death is the consequent effect.

From the Vermeer-inflected composition, we cut to one of the doctor and Mrs Wagner, mid-way, one suspects, through a sexual act. This is the scene where the doctor reveals his inner libertine, as he viciously, verbally attacks his lover, and she divulges his incestuous, sexual molestation of Ana. In a dialogue in which he says that when he turned to the midwife for sexual solace after his wife’s death, he ‘could have screwed a cow’, he even tries to prompt her to suicide: ‘My God, why don’t you just die.’ (Mrs Wagner as played by Susanne Lothar is subjected to only a little less abuse than her Anna in Haneke’s Funny Games.) From this we cut to the funeral procession of Fenlon Senior, the blackest of humour elicited from the edit, as, for a split second, we consider Mrs Wagner may have taken the doctor up on his suggestion.

The importance of the dormant meaning that Haneke excises from the cracks between shots and scenes is exactly the underlying signification of the film. In the above sequence the audience is transported from the children, and their guilt, to a death caused by the real burden of a crime, via the despicable behaviour of the doctor and back to death. Death is the coda for the doctor, his actions and words and from the children’s stigma, evoked and imposed by their parents, flows death, or vice versa, whether the scenes are looked at consecutively or in reverse. The scene where the doctor’s children discuss death, Ana attempting to explain the concept to the considerably younger Rudi, seems to bear out all these conclusions.

This ebb and flow, this reflux, erodes established order, the authority of those involved, the teacher, Baron, pastor and doctor. Society comes away at the seams, as such. In the scene when Erna confesses her portentous nightmares to the teacher, her final word of the scene, ‘absurd’, is deferred to the following one, just as the pastor enters his office. Dreams, religion, the supernatural and absurdity are all linked and offered equal regard. Yet, along with religion, as with the rest of Haneke’s oeuvre, all accepted societal norms; education, science and capitalism prominent amongst them; are equally derided as corruptive.

Here too, of course, Haneke makes his own premonitions. His foreknowledge, as omnipotent director, of the events that will unfold beyond the film, are sewn into the fabric of the film. Are then the adults compliant, intrinsically a part of what is to come? The children, as the blame and guilt flow both ways, are also compromised: We cannot ignore that one child is called Adolf and another Ferdinand. Nor, can we ignore Mrs Wagner’s name, or her profession; a pertinent one that implicates her as a deliverer of evil.

With the film situated, historically, on the cusp of World War I; the majority of the film unfolds over four seasons from summer 1913 to spring 1914 and in the epilogue of the second summer war is declared; it is not surprising that The White Ribbon is mottled with references to conflict. Yet, as one would have noted, Haneke’s allusions seek to penetrate further forward into our collective past. Already I have mentioned the four authoritarian village trustees, attempting, as the major European powers did leading up to the war, to maintain a balance of power, but corrupting those in their care whilst doing so. In addition, there is no mistaking the implications, the overtones, of the perfectly wicked blond children, or the characters’ names listed above, with war a matter of months away and the ascendency of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, in the ‘20’s, casting a shadow, Haneke’s target(s) is (are) obvious.

However, it is not just the world wars that are evoked through these ‘clues’, many aberrations of the first half of the 20th century are intimated. That the Baron wears a white suit, like Stalin’s white frock, and bears ‘a more than passing resemblance to Lenin’, exactly like ‘The Host’ from Jan Nemec’s The Party and the Guests (1965) (as pointed out by Peter Hames in The Czechoslovak New Wave) may be seen, along with his overt situating as an ‘Expressionist’ villain, similar to the Leninesque Haghi of Lang’s Spies (1928), to position him as a representative of these Russians’ iron rule.

Haneke, with a certain dash of humour, intends to defer the actual war from the film’s narrative, for a while. At an embarrassing interview between the teacher and Eva’s father, surrounded by Eva and her many siblings, they discuss marriage. It is arranged and postponed, by the father and teacher only, for a year, the former saying, ‘A year goes past fast. The world won’t collapse.’ Which of course it does. The sentiment, and exact wording, are echoed by the doctor later, stressing how these men do not know, cannot know, what is on the horizon; unlike Haneke and Erna.

Yet, soon war is upon them: after the Baroness returns from Italy, where she has taken Sigi to recover from his torture, she brings with her a new Italian nanny, which, in this context, must be a nod to Mussolini and his Fascists, and Germany’s relations with them. This homecoming only slightly precedes the exchange between husband and wife where she admits that she does not want her children growing up in an environment of brutality, malice, threats and revenge. As mentioned above, the Baron is interrupted during his dictatorial riposte. He leaves the room, and returns with the news that Archduke Ferdinand has been assassinated. They both know that the implication may be War. The peace of the pastoral fields, nature, their harmony, previously susceptible to the delicate winds of village life, will now oscillate wildly in a violent storm.

They can, now, no longer hold back the tide, and the teacher’s voiceover reflects on history’s oppressive step, describing how Austria has declared war on Slovakia, and Germany on Russia, then France.

Of course, a village like this could not contain the explosion that is war. It is too normal, too restricted/ive, too parochial. No one has any expectations, everyone plays their role, the one given to them. They inhabit their veneers as ghosts, which is why they invite widespread warfare.

History is not a succession of ‘events’ segued together by the historian’s pen, or a global newsreader, with nought of significance buffering them, but there are repercussions, ripples, resonance from these episodes, effecting, and possibly caused by little people, individuals. Here also, we do not even witness these happenings, apart form the doctors being thrown from his horse, all others occur in extra-diegetic space. This is chaos theory, sensitive dependence on initial conditions I believe it is termed, in practice and under Haneke’s lens.

This idea also filters into the aesthetic, technicality of the film, that blame is apportioned between generations, a transposition of guilt takes place, seemingly (super)naturally. For instance, that Eva and the other tutor at the Baron’s manor are fired from the Estate, accused of not being more watchful of Sigi before his disappearance, is ludicrous, but indicative of how the adults will not accept censure.

The pastor will not even recognise the potential for the children having executed some of the crimes, possibly in an attempt to protect the village, when the teacher approaches him with a theory that they are, indeed, the torturers. The man of God threatens the scholar, ‘if you ever dare to denounce the children for the crimes, I’ll make sure you go to prison’, in order to extinguish this incendiary gossip. These are ‘the children of respectable families’ one must remember.

This is Haneke’s post-modern magnum opus, in at least that he weaves together all of the strands of his previous films, each of the ‘big’ issues, history, truth, war, guilt and more. It is a study of the human condition under duress, pressures from a force it does not understand, cannot know, filtered through supernatural and Sadean referents.

Yet, there is present also evidence to attract a barb that is often aimed at Haneke, that his films can be intellectually and aesthetically cold (think of Benny’s Video, The Piano Teacher or Time of the Wolf), distant and impenetrable, as if his characters are performing behind frosted glass, or, better yet, under a microscope. Yet, isn’t that exactly the point, that Haneke is inviting us to take a look at the microcosm of society he has chosen for us, only, occasionally, instead of a slide under the lens, we find a tiny mirror.

Kierran Horner lives in London where he works and writes and previously studied English Literature as an undergraduate, and, as a postgraduate, Film Studies, both at the University of London.


One thought on “The White Ribbon

  1. Very interesting and well thought out analysis.

    One glaring error which must be corrected though —

    “describing how Austria has declared war on Slovakia”

    Slovakia was annexed by the Kingdom of Hungary in 1000 AD following the collapse of the Great Moravian Empire.

    The Empire of Austria-Hungary (the dual monarchy) declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia.

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