Michael Haneke’s (Time of the Wolf, Funny Games, The Piano Teacher) black and white film, while not overtly so, becomes a parable of fascism as one thinks about it more and more after viewing. And it is a movie that demands attention, demands thought. The story is told by the village school teacher, who reveals the increasingly strange occurrences. Repression, purposeful but muted violence breaks out and takes on a life of its own.
When it’s all over, the town has changed, and not for the better. It’s all very ambiguous and unsettling. Nothing is resolved. Moral righteousness is corrupt and a shield for underlying amorality. Power is righteousness, not an authentic sense of right and wrong.
The village is a breeding ground, a petri dish. The white ribbons that the local pastor makes his sinning children wear until they prove worthy, foretell yellow Stars of David.
A disturbing film, and it is meant to be so.