Saturday, March 20, 2010

The White Ribbon. A


In Anthony Lane's marvelous essay in The New Yorker about Michael Haneke and 'The White Ribbon,' he talks about, among other things, nine o'clock movies and six o'clock movies. Nine o'clock movies are ones you stop in to see after work and then go to bed. The movies that don't do much more than entertain. Six o'clock movies are when you must plan ahead so you'll have plenty of time afterward to discuss the film. Otherwise you'll go to bed plagued by your wish to talk about the movie and hear your friends' various theories. 'The White Ribbon' definitely falls into the six o'clock category. It's a movie that begs if not forces the viewer to focus on the utmost little details of the story because this will contribute vastly to the final discussion after the movie that decides what it all really meant. It's good to see 'The White Ribbon' with friends so that you can express your thoughts to someone besides yourself. You just have to pick the right ones to see it with. The movie is very slow, moving at a very deliberate, even pace. But it's not testing the viewer's commitment. It's so well made that it doesn't need to. From the opening scene of the doctor's accident to the final, heart-stopping moment, the film grabs you and you can't help but be mesmerized by it. It's the lack of music, the black and white photography, the slow, chilling dialogue, and above all the great mystery that haunts a small German village on the eve of the first world war. With 'The White Ribbon' Haneke has created a bold, disturbing masterpiece. The costumes, the set design, and the colorless images made me feel like I was watching a classic from the 30s or 40s. But the movie isn't trying to be like those old classics. It's not pretentious or phony in its period design. It's just such a stellar piece of work that you can't tell it's a modern movie. I guess that fits the definition of timelessness. 'The White Ribbon' has claimed numerous well-deserved prizes, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Many would consider it a 2009 film, but I didn't come to Dallas until 2010. So I call it the best movie of the young year so far and a sure bet to be on my top 10 list come December.

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