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The White Ribbon ( ) is a 2009 Austrian-German drama film written and directed by the Austrian Michael Haneke. The screenplay focuses on a children's choir in a village in northern Germanymarker just before World War I. According to Haneke, the film is about "the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature." It premiered at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in May 2009 and won the Palme d'Or.

Plot

The White Ribbon is the story of a village in Protestant northern Germany in 1914, just before the First World War, as children and adolescents in a choir directed by the village schoolmaster, and their families: the Baron, the superintendent, pastor, doctor, midwife, peasants. Strange incidents occur, acts of vandalism and violence, which gradually assume the character of a ritual punishment.

Cast

  • Christian Friedel as teacher
  • Ernst Jacobi as narrator
  • Leonie Benesch as Eva
  • Ulrich Tukur as baron
  • Ursina Lardi as Marie-Louise, baroness
  • Fion Mutert as Sigmund
  • Michael Kranz as private tutor
  • Burghart Klaußner as priest
  • Steffi Kühnert as Anna, priest's wife
  • Maria-Victoria Dragus as Klara
  • Leonard Proxauf as Martin
  • Levin Henning as Adolf
  • Johanna Busse as Margarete
  • Thibault Sérié as Gustav
  • Josef Bierbichler as property manager
  • Gabriela Maria Schmeide as Emma, property manager's wife
  • Janina Fautz as Erna
  • Enno Trebs as Georg
  • Theo Trebs as Ferdinand
  • Rainer Bock as doctor
  • Roxane Duran as Anna, doctor's daughter
  • Susanne Lothar as midwife
  • Eddy Grahl as Karli
  • Branko Samarovski as peasant
  • Birgit Minichmayr as Frieda
  • Aaron Denkel as Kurti
  • Detlev Buck as Eva's father
  • Carmen-Maja Antoni as Hebamme


Production

Haneke has said the project was in development for more than ten years. The initial version of the script was written as a television mini-series for the Austrian broadcaster ORF, but when no co-producer who was willing to invest in the project had been found after five years had passed, Haneke decided to put the project on hold.

Eventually revived as a feature film, the production was led by the Austrian company Wega Film. It was also co-produced by Les Films Du Losange (France), X Filme (Germany) and Lucky Red (Italy). More than 7000 children were interviewed during the six-month-long casting period. For most of the adult roles, Haneke selected actors with whom he had worked before and therefore knew they were suitable for the roles.

Filming took place between 9 June and 4 September 2008. Locations were used in Leipzigmarker, Lübeckmarker, Michaelisbruch (Dreetzmarker) and Netzow (Plattenburgmarker). The choice to make the film in black and white was based partly on the resemblance to photographs of the era, but also to create a distancing effect. All scenes were originally shot in colour and then altered to black and white in post-production. Digital cinematography also allowed extensive retourching in order to remove modern details from the images, as well as sharpen objects and facial expressions.

Release

The film premiered on 21 May 2009 as an official selection at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. It is scheduled to have its theatrical release in Austria on 25 September 2009. For American distribution, it has been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics who will release it on 30 December 2009.

With a fully German cast and setting, as well as being co-produced by a German company, it has been discussed whether the film should be regarded as an Austrian or German production. Haneke himself has expressed how he is uninterested in such categorization: "in the Olympic Games the medal doesn't go to the country, but to the athlete." The general consensus is that it primarily is a Michael Haneke film, and secondarily a European production.

Reception

The film currently holds an 89% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews.

Awards and honours

In Cannes, the film won the Palme d'Or, FIPRESCI prize, given by the International Federation of Film Critics, and a special mention from the ecumenical jury. This was followed in August with the FIPRESCI Grand Prix for best film of the year.

The film has been selected as Germany's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards. This has caused some controversy as well as confusion about the rules of the Academy, which would have accepted a submission from either Germany or Austria. Martin Schweighofer, head of the Austrian Film Commission, has expressed that he is not happy with the decision: "The discomfort arises because of the vague rules of the Academy. In essential regards the film is Austrian." It has been reported that the American distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, pressured Germany to submit it rather than Austria for tactical reasons, since Austrian films have been nominated two years in a row with 2007's The Counterfeiters and 2008's Revanche, making a third consecutive nomination statistically unlikely.

References

  1. Austria Presse Agentur (24 May 2009) " Michael Haneke: Das Spiel mit der Angst." . Kurier. Retrieved on 24 May 2009.
  2. Lemercier, Fabien (21 May 2009) " Interview with Michael Haneke." Cineuropa. Retrieved on 25 May 2009.
  3. Vienna Film Fund - Das weiße Band
  4. The White Ribbon at Filmportal.de, operated by Deutsches Filminstitut.
  5. Omasta, Michael; Pekler, Michael. " In jedem meiner Filme muss ich laut lachen" . Falter, 38/2009. Retrieved on 23 November 2009.
  6. McClintock, Pamela (17 June 2009) " Sony to unfurl 'Ribbon' at Christmas." Variety. Retrieved on 22 June 2009.
  7. Austria Presse Agentur (28 May 2009) " Michael Hanekes 'Matura'-Feier." . Der Standard. Retrieved on 30 May 2009.
  8. Stone, Jay (23 May 2009). "Antichrist gets an anti-award in Cannes" at National Post. Retrieved on 23 May 2009.
  9. Hopewell, John (27 August 2009) " 'White Ribbon' wins Fipresci prize." Variety. Retrieved on 28 August 2009.
  10. Meza, Ed (26 August 2009) " Oscar could wear 'White'." Variety. Retrieved on 28 August 2009.
  11. (28 August 2009) " Haneke greift für Deutschland nach Gold" . Der Standard. Retrieved on 28 August 2009.


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