April 25, 2010

The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band) (2009)

Another masterpiece from Writer/Director Michael Hanke, of Funny Games and Caché fame. As intriguing and engrossing as the story of The White Ribbon is, I can't help but think that this is a mere excuse for Hanke and cinematographer Christian Berger (which worked on most of Henke's films) to create this tour de force of cinematographic aesthetics. I absolutely adore the way that this film looks. Be it in part that I'm a sucker for that classic 60's black and white look (as it was used at a time when color cinematography was well surpassing black and white, and its use was purely aesthetic) or because I can appreciate a form-over-content philosophy. This is not to say that the story is inferior or in anyway overshadowed by the aesthetics; in fact they compliment each other quite nicely. The performances are solid, with an ensemble cast of mostly character actors and child actors that do a wonderful job of conveying the imminent feeling of dread in a small German town before WWI. Many choose to read into the plot various things, mostly related to human nature and totalitarian/patriarchal regimes and even the rise of nazism (although relatively a very distant echo), but in the end I found that taking it at face value and just enjoying the form as much as the plot, without too much hypothesizing, worked best. Overall great film, albeit one that will most likely appeal to the more art-film inclined audiences.