PRINT January 2010


Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon

A BOY WANDERS THE RUINS of bombed-out Berlin, denied solace and sustenance at every turn. Coached to “let the weak disappear” by a pedophiliac black marketeer, a kind of Nazi Erlking who was once his schoolteacher, the child poisons his ailing father and then kills himself, less out of contrition than despair. Young Edmund, who responds to a malign postwar world by leaping to his death, is the protagonist of Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948), long on the list of Michael Haneke’s ten favorite films. Characteristically, the Austrian master chose neither Rome, Open City (1945) nor Paisà (1946), the earlier, more celebrated entries in Rossellini’s trio of films about World War II, but settled instead on the trilogy’s terse, bleak, and relatively unknown conclusion. Void of its predecessors’ palliatives (humor, Italian regionalist color, a sense of humanist solidarity), the starkly

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