Sunday, March 14, 2010

Das Weisse Band - Michael Haneke (2009)

Let's just get this part out of the way. "Das Weisse Band" ("The White Ribbon") from Germany should have won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.


I am still astonished that the Academy gave the prize to Juan Jose Campanella’s adequate but ultimately forgettable cold-case drama, "The Secret in Their Eyes" from Argentina.
Both "Un Proph├Ęte" and "The Milk of Sorrow" were better than "Secret."
And here's the kicker. "The Secret in Their Eyes" was a very good film. It just shows how strong the Foreign Language Film category was this year.
Although how did "Sin Nombre" get overlooked?
"Das Weisse Band" wasn't just the best in the category of Foreign Language Film. It was a better film than any of the ten films nominated for Best Picture.
Michael Haneke constructs a disturbing tale of ritualistic punishment under the guise of either religion or responsible child-rearing.
The episodic nature of Ribbon works so beautifully. Each scene could easily stand on its own as an exceptionally strong short film.
And there is a mystery surrounding a series of either unfortunate or sinisterly planned accidents in a German village in the year or so leading up to World War I.

As the pastor, the schoolteacher, the doctor and the baron deal with the children of the small town in their alternately sadistic and confused ways, they learn that the Archduke of Austria has been assassinated in Sarajevo.

It’s like the evil from the outside world is seeping into the town. Or is it the other way around?

Haneke has a long history of hypnotizing and unsettling us at the same time with films like "Funny Games" and "Cache."

When I watch one of his films, I am stunned that he can imagine a world where human beings are capable of such intense and profound evil, yet he presents it so casually.
When a child is ushered into a room by his parents and the door is closed behind them, that shot of the white door that we stay on for maybe 8 or 9 seconds has more tension and dread than anything in any horror film I've seen.

"Das Weisse Band" is Haneke's best film to date and as moving as Claudia Llosa’s meditation on illness and sexual abuse, "The Milk of Sorrow" from Peru is, Haneke deserved to be honored by the Academy.
(Frankly, had Haneke lost to "Sorrow," or even "Un Proph├Ęte," I don’t think it would have bothered me.)

Haneke has long been admired for in the film community, both here and in Europe.



I, for one, certainly thought his haunting tale of ritualistic punishment and a serious of mysterious tragedies in a small town in pre-WWI Germany was one of the night’s foregone conclusions.Alas and alack.

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