Saturday, April 10, 2010

Haneke's choice

Michael Haneke’s film The White Ribbon is one way of
attempting to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable
opposites described in my last blog—opposites made
emblematic in the image, true to life, of well-fed, well-
dressed Germans listening to Schubert in, say, 1943 while
fellow Germans (often following the orders of the
Schubert listeners, who knew perfectly well what was
going on) committed mass murder in death camps
situated in some cases no more than a few hundred
metres away. Haneke simply depicts the life of a German
village in the years 1913–14 and, without belabouring the
point, or even overtly making it, says, in effect, to the
audience: this is what Germany was like then—you know
what Germany was like immediately after that—make
the connexion. And in the narrow, enclosed world of the
village, dominated by feudal economics and Lutheran
religion, where male authority is paramount and
unchallengeable, where children are rigidly repressed
and adults abuse them at will, where atrocities occur in
dark places, it’s all there to be connected. Choose, if you
will, to see the seeds of Hitler, Nazism, the two world
wars, the Holocaust behind the walls and in the woods
of Eichwald, c1914. It’s your choice, Haneke is saying.
Clearly, in making this film, he has made his.

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