The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Classic Pictures - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 144 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): German DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English narration, German dialogue subbed in English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Starring: Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Burghart Klaubner, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Leonard Proxauf, Ursina Lardi
Written & Directed by: Michael Haneke
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 29, 2010
"Do as I say and as I do"
On the eve of World War I, strange accidents in a small Protestant village in Northern Germany involve the children and teenagers of a choir run by the schoolteacher and their families. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery as these events gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual.
The White Ribbon takes place pre World War I in a small German Village. The inhabitants appear to be of simple means with the exception of The Baron who employs half of the village. He, his wife, and three children live on an estate within the village limits. He is looked to for leadership by the villagers and appears to be a fair man. Other village notables include the Steward (who oversees the workforce for the Baron) and his family, the widowed doctor and his two children, the midwife and her mentally handicapped son, the Pastor and his family, and the schoolteacher. The film is narrated by the schoolteacher who is now older and recounting the events that took place one season. It begins with the doctor taking a rather nasty spill from his horse which lands him an extended stay in the hospital (not located in the village) with a broken collarbone. It appears as though his accident was caused by a wire that was strung across the route he normally takes to and from his house. This is the beginning of a series of unusual and disturbing occurrences that have inexplicable origins. Some could be construed as accidental while others are clearly deliberate and come in the form of punishment/retaliation for seemingly unexplained reasons. There is an ominous nature that surrounds what is happening however most fails to take notice of who/what may be behind it.
In between these mysterious trappings life goes on which provide a closer look at the village inhabitants. Each supply clues to the mystery, but none that come in the form of readable breadcrumbs. The pastor is a stern disciplinarian who holds his children, especially the eldest boy Martin and girl Klara, to a strict code of conduct. Violation of that conduct leads to consequences. When they fail to come home on time one evening they receive corporal punishment followed by making them each wear a white ribbon. He has deemed it a sign of purity and a symbol that he feels is necessary to remind them of what is most valued and important. They are to wear the symbol until he judges them worthy of fulfilling its meaning. The doctor returns home from the hospital much to the chagrin of his 14 year old daughter, and 6 year old son that have been looked after by the village midwife (who has her own tale of woe). A local farmer's wife who works for the Baron suffers a fatal accident while at work when she falls through the rotten wooden floor in a barn loft. The schoolteacher meets and falls for the young woman recently hired by the Baroness as a nanny to their infant sons. She lives in a nearby village and although he has only met with her a few times he can't stop thinking about her and makes plans to call on her at her parent's home. Things within the village slowly begin to unravel. The Baron's son becomes a victim of an unusual punishment style ritual. It disrupts his household and the ripple effect is felt throughout the village. The frequency of dark events increases as more details surrounding the youth and their relationship with the adults in the village begin to come to light. The schoolteacher begins to suspect the truth but the thought is barely conceivable and certainly unspeakable.
I knew nothing about this film going in other than what I had seen in the trailer which offered just enough to pique my interest. This is a dark and intriguing expose about the blind interpretation of the ideals of one generation by the next and the depraved indifference displayed by a seemingly ordinary group of people in a small rural village. There are certain aspects of the film that are left open to interpretation but many are pointed with a directness that can be disturbing. The result makes for a compelling and evocative story that speaks volumes about the old adage do as I say not as I do. The cast was simply marvelous as each thoroughly fulfilled their duty to be genuinely convincing. I loved the cinematography and thought the decision to shoot the film in black and while only added to the story's thematic tone and mystique. The White ribbon doesn't offer a traditionally neat and tidy ending that ties everything together but it doesn't have to. The point it makes long before that is loud and clear. I thought it was great.
The rating is for disturbing content involving violence and sexuality.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Monochrome reproduction:
The white ribbon comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video with an average bitrate of 27 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound with an average bitrate of 2.6 Mbps.
Looking at films from a colorless perspective is something that can take a little getting used. It isn't an issue for me which allowed me to appreciate how wonderful this presentation is. Resolution is exquisite as images onscreen appear lucid and sharp with crisp definition that occasionally takes a near infinite perspective. Close ups reveal lots of fine detail in the faces, hair and clothing worn by the cast members. Some have expressive faces that reveal every crack, furrowed brow and wrinkle. Finer detail, that might otherwise be missed such as the etched/worn surfaces on old buildings or the texture of a fresh blanket of snow are clearly discernible. This is the case with interior shots as well which add a wonderful sense of dimension to the image making it appear more lifelike. Blacks and contrast have ample dynamic range which plays very well against the film's gradational shades of gray. Whites exhibit multistage delineation so that the blend of mixed content onscreen has appreciable depth of field. There is an assortment of low lit sequences where the only lighting consists of a flickering candle or kerosene lamp. While there is some natural loss of visibility in dark backgrounds the level of shadow detail is quite good. Even in black and white I could detect the differing tonal qualities among the fair skinned members of the cast. Grain is presented in fine layers that provide texture without overemphasis. This is a pristinely rendered video presentation that looks terrific in high definition.
The multi-channel German (English subtitled) lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack won't test the limits of your surround sound system but it capably handles this front loaded audio presentation. It yields crisp, well textured dialogue that reaches far into the room and renders even subtle variances in tonal character or vocal inflections clearly. Good dynamic range is apparent but rarely tested by the recorded elements however the sounds/dialogue contained therein have ample depth. This is decidedly a dialogue driven film. Based upon the thematic tone of the story I think this presentation is not only appropriate but sounds quite good.
- Making of The White Ribbon - 38 minute featurette
- My Life - 50 minute documentary on director/writer Michael Haneke
- Cannes Film Festival Premiere - 18 minute documentary
- An interview with Michael Haneke - 14 minute featurette
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
- (HD) Previews: The secret in their eyes, Get low, A prophet, Chole, The last station, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, Waltz with Bashir, Wild grass
The White Ribbon is a thought provoking, evocative and well enacted dramatic film that will leave you thinking about it long after you have finished watching. I found it to be a rewarding and darkly intriguing expose about the blind interpretation of the ideals of one generation by the next and the depraved indifference displayed by a seemingly ordinary group of people in a small rural village in pre World War I Germany. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring superb high definition video, crystal clear lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound and a limited but pertinent bonus feature offering. It is a highly recommended film that is worthy of your time.
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