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The White Ribbon

Winner of the Palme d'or ~ 2009 Cannes Film Festival
~ Best Foreign Film ~ Academy Nominee

While Tarantino was busy romanticizing the downfall of German fascism, Michael Haneke set about exploring its roots in The White Ribbon, a masterful sociological drama that brought the Austrian filmmaker (who previously won the Cannes Grand Jury Prize for The Piano Teacher and Best Director for Caché) his long-overdue Palme d’Or. The setting is a rural German village during the year leading up to World War I, where the local schoolteacher (excellent newcomer Christian Friedel) comes to believe that a rash of deadly accidents befalling the townsfolk may be the work of one or more of his eerily withdrawn, stoic pupils. The ribbon of the title, a symbol of innocence and purity, is one that Haneke gradually unravels as the teacher discovers the ritualistic cycle of domination, submission and humiliation churning beneath the town’s placid Protestant surface. Less conceptual and more novelistic in structure than Caché and the Americanized Funny Games remake, this disturbing, challenging and austerely beautiful film (shot in forbidding black-and-white) methodically works its way through a dense, multi-character narrative while refining the director’s trademark concerns about society’s hidden violence and the evils transmitted from parents to children. As usual in Haneke’s films, guilt is a communal rather than individual affliction, human decency a fragile flame flickering in the gale. For these reasons and more, Haneke has always been too bitter a pill for some audiences to swallow, but The White Ribbon reaffirms him as the leading European filmmaker of his generation. It feels like a classic even as you are watching it for the first time, and is one of the films for which the 2009 Cannes Film Festival deserves to be remembered. – Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly
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Directed by: 
Michael Haneke
Running Time: 
In German with English Subtitles
Christian Friedel, Ernst Jacobi, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur
Screenplay by: 
Michael Haneke

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