Saturday, 21 November 2009

Questions and Children - it's all in the way they're raised.

I went to see Michael Haneke’s film "The White Ribbon" last night.

The film paints a bleak and brutal portrait of an early 20th century German village and asks us to consider a number of savage acts and to speculate on the motives and identity of the perpetrator/s. At the end of the film we are presented with the shocking but compelling suggestion that the village's children are in fact responsible - as a direct consequence of their parents widely abusive and irresponsible treatment, which we have variously witnessed throughout the film.

Michael Haneke has been quoted as saying:

"Films that are entertainments give simple answers but I think that's ultimately more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think. If there are more questions at the end, then surely it is a richer experience."

I certainly came away from seeing The White Ribbon asking myself one overriding question: whodunit? - and the more I thought about this, the more convinced I became that it was indeed the children. However, I think Haneke has missed a subtle point here, because there's a significant difference between questions which simply require a solution (and the more Occam's razor-like the answer, the more resolved - and therefore put to rest - the initial question) and questions which lead to considerations of complex and challenging issues eg: the corruption of innocence which is such a profound and haunting underlying theme of this excellent film.


Tymoteusz Masiakowski said...

Seen this film 2 times now and I'm still impressed. First time at a film festival on a big screen in Poland. I liked it very much.

I was actually so eager to see what happens to the village when the war starts but sadly it ended before that.

Anonymous said...

There must be group/culturally inherited traits that bring about certain kinds of inevitable behaviours.
To live outside the collective moral inheritance, is a kind of exclusion for an infant, that could feel like annihilation. however much its personal/singular instinct is repulsed by those behaviours. Is anyone born into a perfect or wholly imperfect moral culture. and does such a thing exist? That some cultures survive into extreme collective brutality, to the point of facing inter-group annihilation, indicates the power that may be exercised by educators.

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