My dear sister gave a DVD of "The White Ribbon" for my birthday (one of two movies). I watched it this evening.
It's a story of sinister goings on in a small German village, tied to a barony, in the year leading up to World War One. Almost exactly 100 years ago from now.
So it's a reminder of how much things have changed in Europe as well as window into a way of life that was about to be abruptly altered forever, and, in the immediate future, very much for the worst. As such, the movie strives to establish a mood of hypocrisy, repression, and cruelty. It does so, but not so much that you can feel you can extrapolate this into the barbaric wars and regimes that followed. Rather, you come away feeling that any human community, however well-meaning on the surface, has the potential for evil doings underneath the surface. That is not a particularly fresh insight, however well done.
And it is done pretty well here. The movie is very slow – slower even than "Heimat", the most obvious frame of reference. It could be considered as a sort of prequel to that fascinating series, except with artier aims. It's beautifully photographed and very well acted but remains a smaller film than I think its makers would like us to consider, and is best judged simply on its own terms rather than as carrying some grand message. Obviously, we cannot look at these scenes without the awareness of bloody war and Hitler to come, but if there is an allegorical intent it really does not work. But, as a rather unsettling and unresolved drama about a group of flawed human characters, it is effective.
As I often like to do after watching a film on DVD, I watched the trailer afterwards. Rather laughable in its attempt to cast this as a conventional thriller.