Synopsis: A village in Protestant northern Germany. 1913-1914. On the eve of World War I. The story of the children and teenagers of a choir run by the village schoolteacher, and their families: the baron, the steward, the pastor, the doctor, the midwife, the tenant farmers. Strange accidents occur and gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual. Who is behind it all? [Synposis courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival]
Round-up: "The White Ribbon" is "a Bergmanesque black-and-white portrait of enigmas and familial discord in a Protestant German village at the beginning of the twentieth century peddles in the art of downbeat expressionism," said indieWIRE's Eric Kohn. "Pairing visual mastery with a quietly immersive story, 'The White Ribbon' plays like a morbid version of 'Our Town,' patiently revealing the inward discord beneath the surface of a settled community. It’s a frightening depiction of mortality." Kohn was not alone in his admiration. "More than ever, the playful, challenging, sometimes shocking director of ‘Hidden’, ‘Funny Games’ and ‘Time of the Wolf’ solidly resists answering the ‘what’s it all about?’ question and makes you work hard to make sense of what you’re seeing," wrote Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "As in ‘Code Unknown’, he resists focusing on one story or a limited number of characters and instead offers a wide, rich canvas of people and experiences linked only by the fact that they are neighbours and increasingly all subject to a burgeoning threat from within." Screen's Mike Goodridge continued the applause noting that "when he is on top form Michael Haneke’s artistry and unerring control of his material is hard to beat. And he is on top form in The White Ribbon, a meticulously constructed, precisely modulated tapestry of malice and intrigue in a rural village in pre-World War I northern Germany." While Movieline's David Bourgeois called the film "brilliant" and "a serious Palme d'Or contender." Though one of the film's few mixed reviews came from a pretty major voice. The New York Times Manohla Dargis noted that "there’s much to admire, notably the finely etched, meticulous compositions," yet "while Mr. Haneke’s critique of systems of domination is certainly persuasive — the fathers who beat their children will soon march to war on behalf of the Fatherland — it lacks the intellectual and emotional nuance that would make this largely joyless world come to life."