I came across another black-and-white European movie this weekend, this one shot in Germany, and an altogether less charming affair. Called “The White Ribbon“, it was the German Best Foreign Language nominee in 2009 and the winner of the Palm d’Or in Cannes. I’d never heard of it before, and it’s a slow, strange watching experience, compelling, troubling and redolent – if also somewhat frustrating in its lack of obvious resolution.
Set in the year before World War I, in a small village in northern Germany, the film tracks a series of unusual events that threaten to shatter the established status quo. Like a cross between the Midwich Cuckoos and M Night Shylaman’s The Village, there’s a slow, uncomfortable realization that the children have become the custodians of the violence, sexual abuse, moral repression and apathy meted out to them by their parents, and – early on – a link is made between this unspoken malice and the rise of Nazism. Interesting.
The White Ribbon filmed on location in Leipzig and Lubeck, amongst other places, in hugely evocative period buildings, where each creak of the floorboards, each buzz of bluebottles around the mouth of a corpse, magnifies the claustrophobic, disturbing and repressed world. The black and white imagery is so mesmerising and immersive that in parts it’s like watching an old, old movie from a bygone era. Again, really interesting, and well worth sticking with.