Black and white

The BH’s Tony Lewis reviews “The White Ribbon” in today’s paper, and though he complains that some of the film’s most intriguing narrative threads “suffer from unnecessarily long, drawn-out pacing” (how much Haneke have you seen, Tony? “Glacial” is the man’s middle-name), he seems to have dug the overall product.

Yet I’m confused by Tony’s notion that Haneke is overly obsessed with conveying a message, one that Tony thinks “isn’t always clear.” The primary knock against “The White Ribbon” when it was first distributed in the U.S. was that the film’s arguments—and Tony’s quite right to say that Haneke’s arguing a specific set of positions—are too straightforward, too obvious, too uncontroversial to anybody familiar with modern European history.  Indeed, compared to the theses advanced by Haneke in films such as “The Seventh Continent,” “The White Ribbon” is an image of intellectual agreeableness.

I’m also not so sure that “The White Ribbon” “strives to highlight failures in society in order to deliver a social message,” as Tony puts it. Tony himself alludes to the film’s engaging style—its ice-cold surfaces, harsh geometry, eerily opaque shadows and flourishes of abrupt, almost inexplicable violence—which makes “The White Ribbon” as aesthetically intoxicating as it is intellectually fulfilling.

Here’s my own review of “The White Ribbon,” written way back in January. Hopefully the film will be out on DVD soonish.

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