Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The White Ribbon

I’ve heard about this movie for more than a year. I finally got the DVD from my library and was able to watch it. I was intrigued by what I had heard about this being one of the best films of the year.

It’s in German with subtitles and in black and white.

I guess I’m too old to get art films or whatever this might be called.

I felt the same way about Munyurangabo – the much hyped film from Africa last year. I didn’t think it was all that great either.

I DO like b&w films (nothing better than To Kill A Mockingbird). But this one was soooo dark. Many scenes were so dark I couldn’t tell what was happening. Just movement in the shadows. I read that this was shot in color (they couldn’t find enough b&w film stock) so maybe this leaching out of the color washed out a lot of detail. There are plenty of pretty outdoor scenes of harvest fields etc. but on the whole the movie is dark – in tone and in theme.

The director holds shots for a very long time. I think he went to the M Night Shyamalan school of film directing. I don’t believe you have to see everything – sometimes what you don’t see makes it better. But there was a lot of framing where you couldn’t always see what was happening. Mostly static camera with little movement.

I don’t understand German and was reading the subtitles. A goodly portion of explanation comes from an off screen narrator. Much of the exposition and background were his telling us what had happened and keeping up with a timeline of events.
But in spite of this excess narration. I felt like I missed a lot.

There is obviously a bad person or two wreaking havoc on a German village just prior to WWI. But I was never quite clear exactly who the real bad guys were. Was it the children? Was it the doctor? Was it the pious and rather cold Reverend? Quite possibly all of them (or none of them – the film has no real conclusion) Maybe I missed the obvious clues but this was not tied up for me.

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