The White Ribbon

Synopsis: 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.
Director(s): Michael Haneke
Production: Sony Pictures Classics
  Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 58 wins & 39 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
144 min


A German children's story

I don't know if the story

I want to tell you

is entirely true.

Some of it I only know by hearsay.

After so many years,

a lot of it is still obscure,

and many questions

remain unanswered.

But I think I must tell

of the strange events

that occurred in our village.

They could perhaps

clarify some things

that happened in this country.

It all began, I think,

with the doctor's riding accident.

After his dressage session

on the Baron's estate,

he was headed home,

to see if any patients had arrived.

Entering the garden,

his horse tripped on a wire

strung between two trees.

His daughter saw the accident

from a window,

informed their neighbor,

who informed the estate's steward,

so that the agonizing doctor

could be transported

to the district hospital

over 30 km away.

The neighbor,

a single woman of around 40,

was the village midwife.

Since the death of the doctor's wife

in childbirth,

she had become invaluable for him

as housekeeper and receptionist.

After tending the doctor's

two children,

she went to the school

to fetch her own son, Karl.

- Have you seen Anni?

- You don't say hello?

Hello, Mrs Wagner. Forgive him.

Hi, Klara.

We're so worried

that Martin forgot his manners.

That's all right.

How is the Doctor?

Not very well.

- Must he stay in the hospital?

- I don't know.

We'll go see Anna, to help her out.


- You enjoyed the choir?

- Yes.

Show how well you sang.

Good bye, teacher.

Last one is a rotten egg!

If I remember correctly,

it seemed odd to me

that the kids around Klara,

instead of scattering

after school to their homes,

headed together

to the exit of the village.

I could cut out some animals

for you,

like last week.

You'd like that?

We can color them together.

Or cut them

from the lovely colored paper?

The golden one

that I got for Easter?

Come on...

Well, I'll make us something to eat.

What if he never comes back?


Come on!

Don't be silly!

It'll heal, just like the flu.

Remember last winter?

You were very sick, weren't you?

And then...

Hi, Anni!

How are you?

Can we help you?

How did the wire get there?

Did the Doctor say?

He was in no mood to talk:

his collarbone

was stuck in his neck.

I asked his daughter.

She has no idea.

He rides through there daily.

- Did you look at the wire?

- Sure.

It's thin, but strong.

Almost invisible.

Sorry, Madame.

You play too well for me.

Don't apologize, concentrate.

It'll help us both.

You play too fast for me, M'am.

I'm not Frederic the Great.

How could he have played Schubert?

Let's do the Variation again.

Darling, if you like the music,

sit beside me and turn the pages.

If you're bored, go to your room.

Or stay out of my sight.

I get nervous if you saunter around.

What time is it?

Where's the nanny?

With the twins, I presume.

- It's twenty to nine.

- Twenty to nine?

Way past your bedtime!

Has he done his homework?

Of course, M'am.

You want to turn the pages for me or not?


Then come here!

Let's go back to the Theme.

Practice the Variations.

Or it's no fun.

I'll do my best, Baroness.

So from Bar 9.

Please forgive us, Father.

Forgive us.

Tonight, no one here has eaten.

When night fell,

and you hadn't returned,

your mother searched the village

in tears.

Could we have enjoyed our meal,

fearing for you?

Can we enjoy our meal now,

after hearing your lying excuses?

I don't know what's worse:

your absence, or your coming back.

Tonight we'll all go to bed hungry.

You surely agree with me

that I can't leave

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Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke is an Austrian film director and screenwriter best known for films such as Funny Games, Caché, The White Ribbon and Amour. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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