Saturday, December 12, 2009

Micheal Haneke Vs. The Nazi Cock Ring

Das weisse Band- Eine deustche Kindergeschicht(The White Ribbon)(2009)
Directed By Micheal Haneke

"The White Ribbon" is "Children Of The Corn" by way of Ingmar Bergman at his most bleak.
Alan Moore wrote an essay about porn called "Bog Venus Vs. The Nazi Cock Ring" (which really deserves a complete post dedicated to itself http://www.chrismclaren.com/blog/2007/01/14/bog-venus-vs-nazi-cock-ring/), and raises similar conjectures about (among other things) the connections between German social, psychological, and mainly sexual practices in the early half of the 20th century and the violence of total warfare that would come to dominate Europe a few decades later. Claims The White Ribbon seems to echo as it's only means of being viewed as important and socially relevant. Moore makes the point clear, informative, and funny. Humor did not exist at this point in German history apparently, only awkward social rituals and fierce punishments. Haneke has people say cruel Bergman-esque things to each other like literally ::spoiler::getting a handjob and then telling the person to stop because they are disgusting and smell and make you want to vomit::: The cutest children are the rays of hope, and the creepy children we are made to feel are probably young sociopaths waiting to storm trooper their way into history. Heneke says of the film "When strictness becomes an end in itself, and when an idea turns into ideology, it becomes perilous for anyone who doesn’t comply with this ideology. The film uses the example of German fascism to talk about the mental preconditions for every type of terrorism… whenever people are in hopeless, unhappy and humiliating situations, they will grasp at any straw that is handed to them". and "the film is about the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature." Everybody got that? The kids are terrorists and this is Zero De Condiut with eye gouging instead of feathers.I'm sure lots of kids around the world and in Germany who were then and are today beaten more severely than those in "White Ribbon", but they didn't all later participate in mass genocide. Besides where does such simple arm chair psycho-analyzing get us, besides the easy platitude that violence is cyclical?(which is also explored more effectively in Cache). I also think the analogy that terrorists are angry children revenging being over-disciplined is problematic one to say the least, but I'll sidestep that can of worms for the time being.
If Haneke were to have directed "Precious" she would have grown up and became a cannibal.
The direction was lovely though I will give the film that. The B&W creates a nostalgia for the past without giving away the possibility of horror lurking in the shadows at any given moment. The music digetic and otherwise is a nice touch, really filling the emptiness of the film. The narration which renders the film into a series of novel like episodes was always just as long as it needed to be. Haneke has always had a fantastic sense for editing, and this film only finds his talents growing as a film maker, but as a story teller I still find him lacking. Trying, but lacking. Leonie Benesch was a nice touch as well (in a film, so obsessed with the bad kind).
The few moments of this film that aren't completely fatalistic feel out of place, as do many of the open ended monstrosities we either witness or are told about by the narrator. I was interested up until the end, when the film basically just shrugs and goes home, when it could have tried to make some kind of connection between it's emotional and conceptual themes, outside of alluding to WW1. The full title is Das das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, the second half translating to something like the German Kindergarten. Which if this is Kindergarten we can guess which war will take place in adulthood.I understand the kids, and the war, and even the Baron, and the farmers, but what about the doctor and his assistant? The strong dominating the weak...in a Micheal Haneke film, no I don't believe it. Here is the story, mysterious things happen in a small village in Germany in 1913 including accidents, deaths, tortures and attacks. We are lead to believe certain parties are responsible and much is left unexplained, but your pretty clearly left knowing your suspicions were probably true. The end, and cue the world's smallest credits.The White Ribbon is a barely decent story wrapped in a skillful cinematic package from a director with a one track mind; that violence is bad. Both Moore and Haneke seem to think that if the kids had just been allowed to wank off more, perhaps global catastrophe's and genocides could have been avoided.I am not so sure that Wilhelm Reich can fully excuse the Third Riech, but if it did I would still expect this movie to make that connection feel resonant and gripping and not just mysterious and morbid, but those are two things this director does best, or thinks he does best.How many films before and after "Blue Velvet" need painstakingly remind us that behind idyllic settings, bad things are happening?If violence is so terrible why not make a film, were it isn't at the center of everything, instead of a continued public self flagellation at what seems to be an obvious personal obsession running through his films (that Ive seen so far anyway, "Cache" I'm actually a big fan off)."Nothing like a little self-hate is there?"-the doctor. Perhaps if Haneke had done a little less self-stroking here, this could been something meaningful, and not just smugly allusive. It's a classic failed-message movie, though one well directed and acted, which only makes it more disappointing, because it does have potential.It's like looking at a really expensive sleekly designed car, a true testament to German engineering that someone slapped a "No Fat Chicks" bumper sticker on, or "No Blood For Oil" in this case. When this happens, I think it should be from hence forth called Hanekeing-off.

2 comments:

Allison said...

This makes me want to see Haneke's Precious. But no, seriously, I think there are plenty of films that should explore what's going on behind the scenes. America is especially famous for white-washing everything and calling itself the world's greatest country while some of the greatest horrors take place every instant. And no one cares enough to do anything about it.

Joe Sylvers said...

I understand what you mean Allison, beyond also wanting to see Haneke's Precious. It's commendable that Haneke took a critical eye to German history, trying to give us a sense of what kind of culture could produce horrors like Naziism, but I begin to wonder as I do often when watching Haneke's films whether he is shining a light on something because he feels outraged and has a desire to really change it, or if he is just fetishizing the things he claims to hate. His constant looking at the "horror the horror" of media voilence, racism, pornography, etc, seems to me a case of "the lady doth protest too much". I think if he was really as against violence as he seems to crave recognition for bieng, he would make films that didn't revolve it or at least one like Liegh's "Happy-Go-Lucky", which was his first I saw after "Naked", and between the two contains a range of emotions, expeirences, ideas, etc. I'm not sure if just looking at the negative behind the scenes, is always enough to change them, I think nowadays we are "white washed" more and more today with sensational realism to produce gutteral emotional outbursts, which make us feel good about ourselves for bieng still moral enough to be capable of bieng outraged(that's how I felt watching this film, and doubly so, writing my snarky review) while preventing us from thinking critically or actually engaging with a subject. I like that Heneke has a conscious, I just wish it wasnt such a guilty conscious all the time. Thank you for commenting though, sorry it took so long to get back to you. Wont happen again. Scouts honor.