Tuesday 2 March 2010

The White Ribbon

Anyone can tell you that what a successful thriller needs most of all is tension. And, appropriately enough for a rural-set film, The White Ribbon has it in spades.

Right from the off, I was unsettled. It’s likely that this stemmed from what I knew of the film’s plot (focusing on a series of sinister incidents in a German village), and my previous encounters with the work of Michael Haneke (specifically Hidden and Funny Games, both of which should be on your must-see list if you enjoyed this). Anyway, it is this tension that elevates certain scenes from being a black-and-white Lark Rise to Candleford.

Speaking of black-and-white, the film is beautifully shot. Every frame is a perfect photograph, and Christian Berger (the film’s cinematographer) deserves every award available for his efforts. Haneke also deserves plaudits for his scriptwriting ability, particularly for raising sympathy for a character that turns out to be an utter bastard.

Without giving too much away, the conclusion of the plot may be too open-ended for some, especially considering the film’s running time of 144 minutes (I agree that this may be 30 or so minutes too many) Considering the script was originally envisioned as a three-part television series, this may explain the rigid three-act structure and slow (but no less gripping) pace.

A truly great thriller then, but one that may be more comfortable viewing on DVD.

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