Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, Burghart Klaussner, Steffi Kuhnert, Josef Bierbichler, Gariela Maria Schmeide, Rainer Bock, Susanne Lothar, Victoria Dragus, Leonard Proxauf, Janina Fautz, Eddy Grahl, Sebastian Hülk
Written by: Michael Haneke
Directed by: Michael Haneke
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing content involving violence and sexuality
Language: German, with English subtitles
Running Time: 144
Date: 05/21/2009

The White Ribbon (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cold Comfort Farms

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Michael Haneke has directed his newest film in a kind of pure, gorgeous black-and-white. This gives the film a classic look that makes it seem more impressive, but in this case, I think it actually is Haneke's best and most humane work (it's less sadistic and antagonistic toward the audience, and focuses more inwardly on the work itself).

Set in a small German village on the eve of the First World War, it begins with a horrible incident: a doctor on horseback falls over a tripwire. More terrible events happen: grisly beatings and deaths, barn fires and destruction of crops. Who is behind all this and why? A mild-mannered, bespectacled schoolteacher (Christian Friedel) takes it upon himself to find out, while at the same time gently romancing a young town beauty.

Of course, the mystery here is just as elusive as the one in Haneke's Cache, which indicates that the film is really about something else, specifically sexual politics and sexual cruelty. Haneke so vividly defines the place and time that the bizarre rules seem to click into place, making us guilty accomplices as well as modern-day judges.

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