The White Ribbon

Director: Michael Haneke
Year Released: 2009
Rating: 2.0

Misery smothers a small village before World War I, as the children (kind-of, sort-of) dabble in criminal mischief (a barn gets set on fire, a retarded boy gets beaten and blinded, a bird ends up killed with scissors) and the adults skulk around, consumed with their own unhappiness (their sex lives are joyless and perverted). Haneke (as he's done in the past) plays coy with the exact details (who-does-what exactly is left up to the viewer), though the ambiguity doesn't extend very far, as the entire movie boorishly illustrates a rather mundane point that oppressive living conditions can help give rise to fanatical behavior and emotionally damaged children. Unlike Bergman - I was reminded while watching of Winter Light - the austerity isn't counterbalanced with a possibility of redemption or spiritual guidance: Haneke the Humorless finds no joy in Mudville. The narrator, a schoolteacher, is all too sane: at the end, he wisely quits teaching.