“I believe that children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way..”
~ Whitney Houston
Stop reading right now if you’d rather work out the underlying meanings of Michael Haneke’s WWI-era morality tale, The White Ribbon on your own.
…ees eet safe? Safe to proceed for those who already know and anyone else who doesn’t mind knowing?
ok, I suppose it’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s read a review, but I’d hoped to avoid learning too much in advance about this year’s winner of the Palm d’Or at Cannes. But this HuffPo headline caught me off guard and blurted the message right up front: Michael Haneke: When the Nazis Were Children. To be sure nobody misses his implication, Haneke himself doesn’t mind spelling it out:
“There are countless films that deal with the Nazi period, but not the pre-period and pre-conditions, which is why I wanted to make this film, [says Haneke].
“Set in Germany prior to World War I, this is the generation that became adults in the Nazi period. But it’s not just a film about a German problem. It’s about the roots of evil — whether it’s religious or political terrorism. I wanted to depict the children who in their adult life would play a role in the fascist period, and these people were determined by Protestantism.“
The connection between the master race and masturbation, more explicitly explained after the cut.
This is essential viewing for both cinephiles, who will thrill to impeccable filmmaking, and anyone needing to understand the larger world. For the ambition of The White Ribbon is none other than to unearth the origins of Nazism…
A master at orchestrating a sense of menace, Haneke has couched his tale as a thriller and whodunnit — what violence will erupt next and who are the perpetrators? At the same time, Haneke is after larger game: the mindset that infects these children who will come to adulthood during the Nazi regime, and the roots of evil.
The prevailing Protestant ethic of the period, which promoted repression and corporal punishment, seems to feed the children’s depravity. The local Pastor forces his son to wear the white ribbon of the title to remind him of purity and innocence — while the boy’s hands are tied at night to the bed by that same ribbon to prevent him masturbating. Meanwhile, hypocrisy reigns, with the village doctor indulging in carnal acts both cruel and incestuous.