The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon is a 2009 black-and-white German-language drama film written and directed by Michael Haneke. Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (literally, "The White Ribbon, a German Children's Story") darkly depicts society and family in a northern German village just before World War I and, according to Haneke, "is about the roots of evil. Whether it’s religious or political terrorism, it’s the same thing.


  • jaar uitgave: 2009
  • regisseur: Michael Haneke

Meer info

The memories of an unnamed elderly tailor form a parable from the distant year he worked as a village schoolteacher and met his fiancée Eva, who served as nanny to the twins of a local baron. The setting is the fictitious Protestant village of Eichwald, Germany, from July 1913 to 9 August 1914, where the local pastor, the doctor and the baron rule the roost over the area's women, children and peasant farmers. The puritanical pastor leads confirmation classes and gives his pubescent children a guilty conscience over apparently small transgressions. He has them wear white ribbons as a reminder of the innocence and purity from which they have strayed. When his son confesses to impure touching, the pastor has the boy’s hands tied to his bed frame each night. The doctor, a widower, treats the village children kindly but humiliates his housekeeper (the local midwife) and is found with his teenage daughter at night. The baron, who is the lord of the manor, underwrites harvest festivities for the villagers, many of them his farm workers. He summarily dismisses Eva for no apparent reason yet defends the integrity of a farmer whose son has destroyed the baron's field of cabbages. The schoolteacher's friendship with Eva leads to an invitation to her family home during a Christmas break, and they receive permission from her parents to marry after a one-year engagement. Unexplained events occur. A wire is stretched between two trees causing the doctor a terrible fall from his horse. The farmer's wife dies at the sawmill when rotten floorboards give way; her grieving husband later hangs himself. The baron’s young son goes missing on the day of the harvest festival and is found the following morning in the sawmill, bound and badly caned. A barn at the manor burns down. The baroness tells her husband that she is in love with another man. The steward's daughter has a violent dream about the midwife's handicapped son, then the boy is attacked and almost blinded. Shortly after his daughter opens his parakeet's cage with scissors in hand, the pastor finds the bird cruelly impaled. The steward at the baron's estate thrashes his son for a petty theft. The midwife commandeers a bicycle from the schoolteacher to go into town, claiming that she has evidence for the police given to her by her son. She and her son are not seen again, and the doctor's family has also vacated the premises, leaving his practice closed. The schoolteacher's growing suspicions lead to a confrontation in the pastor's rectory, where he insinuates that the pastor's children had prior knowledge of the local troubles. Offended, the pastor threatens the schoolteacher, warning that he will face legal action if he repeats his accusations. The film ends at the time of the declaration of war on Serbia by Austria–Hungary, with the conclusion in church on the day of a visit from the narrator's prospective father-in-law. Disquiet remains in the village. The narrator left Eichwald, never to return.

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