A Great Film, If You Can Understand It


Photo Courtesy of: The San Francisco Sentinel.com

Over the weekend, I went to go see Parkside’s latest foreign film, a German film called The White Ribbon. I had read what the film was about beforehand, like I do with every film I see. The plot sounded very interesting and I was excited to see it. However, after leaving the film, I was very confused.

The White Ribbon’s plot revolves around the narration of a tailor who was once a schoolteacher in the fictitious village of Eichwald, Germany in the early 1900s. The narrator explains strange, yet dark, events happening throughout the course of the film. The first event is in the beginning, when the doctor, coming back to town on horse, trips on a mysterious wire, severely injuring himself and the horse.

The film centers on three characters, for the most part––the pastor, the doctor and the baron. These three characters show superiority over the women, the children and the peasant farmers in the village. The way they do it, however, is very dark.

The pastor is known for giving extreme punishments when it comes to his children doing trivial behaviors. There is a scene in the film where the pastor actually ties his son to the bed, in order to prevent him from “inappropriately touching himself.” He also has the children wear a white ribbon in public, to show that they’re still pure and have not committed sin.

The doctor, on the other hand, treats the children of the village kindly, yet humiliates his housekeeper on a daily basis and takes advantage of his teenage daughter during the night.

The Baron, lord of the manor, underwrites harvest festivities for the villagers, many of whom are the immigrant workers in his employ. He may summarily dismiss his twins’ nanny, Eva, for no apparent reason yet defends the integrity of the farmer whose son has taken his revenge on the baron with the destruction of a field of cabbages.

Although you may think this film is pretty dark, many darker undertones occur that you do not actually see happening; you merely see the aftermath, which, in a way, adds more mystery to it.

The film was shot in black in white, most likely to add an older feel since it takes place in the early 1900s. However, by doing so, it complicated subtitle readability, which, in turn, made it harder to follow the film’s happenings.

This film won the highest award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or and the international film critic’s prize. It has also won three awards at the 2009 European Film awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenwriter. When I think about it, it was a good film, with great depth, that deserves these awards; it is just requires close viewing or else, one can easily be lost.

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