Tweet dated 8/11/09: “Oh crap, gonna have to see the Haneke, aren’t I? But don’t really want to. I’d rather see Cameron Diaz in The Box. Even if it’s garbage.”
And so I took myself off to see The White Ribbon at the cinema La Bastille. A series of mysterious catastrophes sows suspicion in a German rural community, circa 1913: booby-traps, abductions and arson, not to mention child abuse and incest. This makes it sound like one of the Saw movies, but don’t get your hopes up. The White Ribbon ticks all the arthouse boxes with a heavy pen. It’s in black and white, runs two and a half hours and ends, like Haneke’s audience-pleasing Caché, with a fashionable lack of closure. We never do found out whodunnit, though we’re nudged in the most likely direction.
It’s as though all the people in August Sander’s photographs had come to life and started doing horrible things to each other, with a “sins of the fathers” subtext ladled on rather less subtly than in A Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s far from tedious, but so lugubrious it ends up tipping over into an arthouse version of Royston Vasey, which I’m sure was not the intended effect. The comic highlight is a bloke lopping the tops off some cabbages with a scythe, closely followed by the scene in which doctor tells his mistress, “You make me want to vomit.”
The White Ribbon is released in the UK on Friday 13th November