So much has already been said about Michael Haneke's dark and disturbing look at a small village in North Germany in the years before World War II that you almost feel as though you have seen it before you actually have. Still, all those reviews do not prepare you for the lasting power of the film.
For over 2 hours we live in a world ruled by men. The Baron, who runs the village, and who most of the villagers need for work, treats his wife poorly as well as the female members of staff. The local doctor treats the midwife like shit while he abuses his own daughter, and the local pastor punishes his children for trivial matters, while forcing them to wear a white ribbon to remind them of the purity of which they have strayed.
As the film moves on, layers are peeled away like an onion. The pristine and wholesome outer layer hinds something darker beneath, and as we spend more time in the company of this village, and it inhabitants we see the world we currently live in.
This film is set up and a possible explanation to why the Germans were susceptible to Nazism, and it is true that the children do learn moral absolutism, sternness and emotional violence from the men of the village, but is could just was well be pointing the finger at the Middle East of today, or us and the hate mongering of war.
The tension evoked keeps the viewer glued to the screen, even thought the pacing is deliberately slow and purposeful. The is hardly any violence on screen, but you want to cover your eyes all the same.
The cast is uniformly excellent, especially the put upon women in the film, and of course the cinematorgraphy is stunning. However the last effect is the screenplay and the direction of Haneke.
A sharp intelligent film, from one of the masters of social commentary.
Grade - A-