Sunday, November 23, 2014
Indie Review: The White Ribbon (2009)
A Foreign Gem With Subtle Intensity Like A 'Ribbon' Being Wrapped Around Your Nerves And Tightening Them
Part of the reason I prefer older horror films over the ones we have today is because most of them are open to suggestion. Despite there being graphic violence, the audiences are the ones who create the gory details. The White Ribbon does something similar since those who watch and observe the film are the ones who try to piece it together as they are watching it, thus creating a mysterious and unflinching experience.
The White Ribbon is set in an old German village and takes place on the eve of WWI. Starting with the horrific injury of the village doctor, a number of strange occurrences start to occur. At the center of it all is the children who have been physically and emotionally battered by the adults, creating a sense of suspicion and dread.
I'll start off by saying that I loved how the film is mostly open to suggestion. The terrible happenings that occur in the film are either off-screen or literally hidden behind closed doors like the scenes where the children are beaten. They even hardly have the police trying to investigate these crimes because we are the investigators. Nothing about this film is exactly spoon fed to us yet I loved that. Anybody could be the perp and unlike the film's color scheme, nothing is black and white. Not only that, but when these happenings start to occur, there isn't any ominous music in the background and as I said, we never really what happens, just what goes on after. It is like some of the older horror films, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. While this film may not be categorized as horror, it might certainly feel like one.
Speaking of which, I thought the cinematography by Christian Berger was brilliant. Berger really captures the dark and chilly tone through the black-and-white color scheme, especially in the scenes that take place in a dark place and at nighttime. I even thought the scenes where the children wear a titular symbolic white ribbon were well-directed. Since the film is open to suggestion, one could say that the ribbon does represent their innocence or is a contrast to their darkness and is just suppressing what lies underneath when the ribbon is on. Since the children are the film's center piece, the actors who play them nail it. A few standouts, in my opinion, are Leonard Proxauf, who plays the pastor's son Martin, and Janina Fautz, who plays the baron's steward's daughter Erna, who claims to have had a dream about a midwife's handicapped son. The adult actors are also astounding, including Christian Friedel, who plays the school teacher that slowly becomes more suspicious about the happenings taking place.
Overall, The White Ribbon is a beautifully-shot mystery with such subtle yet alarming and unnerving intensity. It is violent without the violence and horrific to watch even if we hardly see the horror at hand. Even though the film's colors are black and white, The White Ribbon really shows how nothing is black and white and allows us to figure out who falls under which color.