The White Ribbon 3D
Directed by Michael Haneke. Starring Michael Fassbender, Val Kilmer, Katherine Heigl, Kirsten Dunst, Dennis Franz, Christian Szell, Heinrich Strasser 16 cert, lim release, 142 min
The Austrian maestro has once again transposed one of his Euro dramas to the US, writes DONALD CLARKE
JUST A FEW short years ago a project such as this would have seemed inconceivable. Michael Haneke, the austere Austrian director of Hiddenand Funny Games, has reshot The White Ribbon, his untouchable 2009 historical melodrama, in English with largely mainstream (though disproportionately Germanic) movie stars. It’s also in 3D. Der mann ist geisteskrank, ja?Not necessarily.
In recent months, two other highbrow German-speaking directors have unveiled serious projects utilising the 3D process. Wim Wenders has given the world Pina, a dance documentary, and Werner Herzog delivered Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a study of ancient cave paintings. Remember also, that, just three years ago, Haneke remade Funny Gamesin English. If anything, the concept seems too obvious.
Fear not. Haneke has retooled the project with enormous ingenuity – redirecting attention from the film’s id to its super-ego – and created a masterpiece whose tenacious psycho-sorcery exceeds even that of the distinguished original.
Relocated to 1970s Cleveland, the new film, again a study of children reacting against parental totalitarianism, necessarily jettisons the source material’s connections to the Nazi regime, but its implied criticism of coming American Christo-Fascism is at least as devastating.
The biggest (and most welcome) surprise is that Haneke, not normally at home to populism, has engaged with the 3D tradition and concluded that the process is at its best when enhancing the flight of hurtling objects.
Not since punters ducked at the oncoming train in L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotathave a film’s action sequences intruded so conspicuously into the auditorium. Timber from the burning barn crashes towards the huddling post-Marxist camera. That tumbling horse appears to clatter onto the cinema’s second row. At times, the picture is closer to My Bloody Valentine 3Dthan to the experiments of Herzog or Wenders.
Yet the proto-earthly intensity of the sub-Monostrovian narrative remains visibly, uncomfortably stratified. Val Kilmer’s deranged turn as the austere Baptist preacher, whose unterdrückungof his own children precipitates violent juvenile anti-conformity, illustrates how easily, after passing through several vicious cycles, deep belief can mutate into militant pop nihilism.
Playing the unfairly dismissed nanny, Katherine Heigl finds her blonde blankness being used as Aryan Metanoia. Michael Fassbender, essaying the morally upright teacher, has, despite his midwest accent, never seemed more pathologically German.
The end result is both a populist entertainment and a cinematic biopsy of troubling neuro-social neoplasms. How do we express our enthusiasm for a film that improves on a piece to which we awarded five stars?
For the first time since 2005 – when Michael Dwyer, this paper’s late film correspondent, awarded six stars to Sail Proof Lady– we unveil the full glittering constellation.