Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Best Achievement in Cinematography
By now "The White Ribbon" has collected a bucketful of awards at all major film festivals, most notably a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Palm at 2009's Cannes, so now it only remains to be recognized by the Academy.
The action is set in a German village, where it begins just two years before the start of the World War I and ends right when the War breaks out. The narrator is a school teacher reflecting on this short period in his life, when he was preoccupied with the idea of getting married.
The quiet bucolic life of the village is disrupted by several incidents that soon grow in number. The doctor gets severely wounded when his horse trips on a transparent wire placed between two trees. Someone opens a window in a room with a baby on a cold night. Baron's son disappears, and is found tied to a tree in the forest. Soon every adult is under suspicion, and the school teacher is the only one who directs his attention to children instead.
The latter are stern-faced boys and girls dressed in ascetic clothes. Raised in austerity, they are completely submissive to adults, but while little ones appear quite innocent, the older ones bear a look that can be interpreted as obedience and loathing at the same time. The name of the film comes from the white ribbon that the strict village pastor ties to arms of his eldest children - as a way to remind them of their purity. It is meant as punishment, but rather appears to be an act of desperation.
Michael Haneke's black-n-white film is a complex, layered story, that doesn't offer easy answers. There is no direct evidence to prove children's guilt, apart from some subtle hints and suspicious behavior. Instead, Haneke paints a vivid picture of the world, about to be transformed forever, and the children's suspected acts of violence serve as dark omen of things to come.
See full list of Oscar nominees here.