Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery.
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From July, 1913 to the outbreak of World War I, a series of incidents take place in a German village. A horse trips on a wire and throws the rider; a woman falls to her death through rotted planks; the local baron's son is hung upside down in a mill; parents slap and bully their children; a man is cruel to his long-suffering lover; another sexually abuses his daughter. People disappear. A callow teacher, who courts a nanny in the baron's household, narrates the story and tries to investigate the connections among these accidents and crimes. What is foreshadowed? Are the children holy innocents? God may be in His heaven, but all is not right with the world; the center cannot hold. Written by
Filmed beautifully in black and white with subtitles, The White Ribbon is a movie that will leave viewers with a lasting residue long after it ends. The film portrays the residents of a northern German village, dominated by a baron, sometime before World War I.
Inhabitants of this village, young and old, are sliding down the slippery slope of moral decline. The men in leadership positions - a doctor and clergyman, for example - are detestable, especially in their treatment of women and children. The most brutal scene in the movie, perhaps, was not one that portrayed physical violence, but verbal abuse towards a woman that served faithfully as caretaker, and more, for the town's widowed physician. As for the some of the children, although it is only suggested, it appears that they are budding sociopaths that perpetrate despicable acts against others.
Weeks after seeing this film, I started thinking more deeply about the children in this town. I realized that they would become young adults during the time Hitler would rise in power. They live an incubator in which the cruelty that they experience they, in turn, perpetrate against unsuspecting victims. Their circumstances are such that they are being unwittingly primed for carrying out the atrocities that will come to characterize their future in Nazi Germany. The White Ribbon is a prequel for the rise of the Third Reich.
Seeing this film led me to wonder about what present times are a prequel for.
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