Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Austria/Germany/France/Italy, 2009. X-Filme Creative Pool, Wega Film, Les Films du Losange, Lucky Red, ARD Degeto Film, Bayerischer Rundfunk, ORF Film/Fernseh-Abkommen, France 3 Cinema, Mini-Traité Franco-Canadien, Canal+, TPS Star. Screenplay by Michael Haneke. Cinematography by Christian Berger. Produced by Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Margaret Menegoz, Andrea Occhipinti. Production Design by Christoph Kanter. Costume Design by Moidele Bickel. Film Editing by Monika Willi. Academy Awards 2009. Cannes Film Festival 2009. Golden Globe Awards 2009. National Board of Review Awards 2009. New York Film Critics 2009. Toronto International Film Festival 2009. Washington Film Critics Awards 2009.
A German village just before the first World War is disturbed when a series of violent events occur: the local doctor is injured in a horseback riding accident after his horse runs into a wire strung between two trees; the young son of the wealthy Baron who employs half the village is found tied up in a barn and beaten severely; the mentally challenged son of the midwife is similarly abused. Moving back and forth between the various families in this hamlet, director Michael Haneke finds an undercurrent of religious fanaticism, moral hypocrisy and degradation of all kinds that inform the reactions to these events and make suggestions as to their origins. Shot in dreamy, moody black and white, the film is elegant, precise and shockingly profound. Haneke is able to put across so much depth with so very little apparent effort, a film with hard edges and pointed moments that is also immensely elegant and light. As is often the case with his films, even the most innocuous situations have a brittle undercurrent of dread playing just beneath the surface, with an incredible control that never lets anything get out of hand. It’s an astounding achievement, possibly too subtle for some audiences, but one that will only get richer with passing years and subsequent viewings.