Das weisse Band

Das weisse Band


(Cinema City)


Michael Hanaeke is something else. Two of his films I didn’t seem to need (both versions of “Funny Games” which he made criticism proof with the now famous statement that if you walked out of the film you didn’t need it, and if you watched it to the end, you did), and nearly all of his films cause some form of trouble.

This may be due to his beginnings in psychology and philosophy. His films often play like interactive essays, delving into the viewers psyche, as well as (usually) entertaining. Whereas often times “cerebral” films ask you to meet it halfway, in the cinema of Haneke, if you do meet him halfway, he’ll grab you by the throat and pull you the rest of the way.

I still think “Cache” is perhaps his most brilliant work. It is a mystery in plain sight, one of which no resolve can be sure (although Roger Ebert claims to have figured it out, and I anticipate watching this again). I think Hanaeke is visiting this type of storytelling again in this film. At the end of the film, I felt pretty clear what had happened. It left me pretty shaken. Yet, is what happened, what I thought happened?

Let me take this back a bit. The film is about a village. This is before everybody’s favorite dictator took over Germany. Now, bad things happen in this village. It is first noticed when a biker rides through a trap and winds up in a coma. More menacing things ensue.

And they are quite menacing and quite scary. Scarier still is that it must be somebody in the village, but who? The film is told mostly through the eyes of a school teacher who doesn’t come from this village. Slowly, he comes to a conclusion that is far more frightening than anything before it. But there is no jolt moment. There is even no payoff.

Instead, there is a brilliant ending shot, much like the ending of “Cache.”

But rather than being a showman’s ending, this is perhaps the ultimate shot in the Hanake canon, because of what it suggests. I have been elusive, but to make this point, I will say what I think, so be forewarned—it is pretty clear the children, in cahoots with each other, commit these horrible crimes. Why? Well…we don’t know.

Hanaeke simply sets up a village in which this kind of horror can be bred. There is much ugliness and negligence in this village. There are many hidden secrets and such deprivation that Hanake doesn’t even uncover the full extent of.

It is a truly remarkable analysis of evil and how horrible atrocities can be born. It is essential cinema to film and history buffs alike who wonder how such horrible realities such as the events of World War II could occur. This is Hanake’s offering to the table. If only they had seen “Funny Games.” These kids really need it.

NOTE: The film is B&W. It was originally shot digitally, and then the color was drained out. It is a very interesting look, but to me, only further proof that pure black and white seem to be unobtainable on video.

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