The White Ribbon

capsule review

THE WHITE RIBBON—This German film, the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, is slow and calculating, emotionless and absolutely riveting. Its stark, bold imagery and setting (a small town in Germany just before World War I) sets a tone for the story, a story that is haunting and all too chilling. The White Ribbon is about a small town filled with secrets and about people who will do anything to protect those secrets. But, mostly, the film is about so many deeper things, about good and evil, about the things we are capable of doing to each other, about guilt and innocence, violence and hate, and individuality—or the lack thereof. There is no way to watch this film without thinking of the larger themes—what the filmmaker is saying about Germans as a people, about the seeds of fascism, about the young characters who could grow up to be Nazis. But what is so good about The White Ribbon is that none of these are what the film is about. Even though these elements are lurking underneath, simmering in your mind, they are not a part of the film itself, and it stands well enough on its own as a snapshot of a place and time whose questions and answers may just be enough on their own, without any wider or greater implications. Either way, The White Ribbon delves deeply into the human soul and exposes some stark contrasts, and the black-and-white film it is shot in serves it well. I, of course, was drawn to this because this is a German film (being partial to all things German), but I recommend this film to anyone who likes well-made films with depth, theme, resonance and a lot to chew on.