Movie review: "The White Ribbon"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Haneke is a master at making audiences squirm with films that aren't so much terrifying as they are relentlessly unsettling.

From the coldly calculating home-invasion horror of "Funny Games" (and a nearly identical English-language remake) to the menacing privacy invasion of "Cache," he longs to be under our skin. His latest film fits snugly in his catalog.

"White Ribbon" is set in a German farming village in the days preceding the first World War, where noblemen and clergy rule a world bathed in the weariness of hard labor and an unspoken class struggle. A series of mysterious events raise tensions. Really, it's best left at that.

Shot in a stark, harsh and strangely beautiful black-and-white, "Ribbon" received a deserved Oscar nomination for cinematography in addition to its Best Foreign Language Film nod. One thing it won't be nominated for is the score. There isn't one, just eerie silence.

There are precious few spikes in the drama, few jaw-dropping revelations in a nearly two-and-a-half-hour film, just steady tension dripping like water wrung from a rag.

The resolution may or may not satisfy you. I just know Haneke's film stuck with me - as his often do - with another layer unfolding in my head days later. That's a sign of a great film.

"The White Ribbon"

Opens Friday

Grade: A-