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Academy Award® Nominated: The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band) ~ Germany

Ensemble post by: Audiegrl and Geot

The White Ribbon

The action takes place in a German village in the fifteen months that precede World War I. Among the people who live there are a baron, who is a large landowner and a local moral authority, his estate manager, a pastor with his many children, a widowed doctor and a schoolteacher who is thinking of getting married. It is he who, many years later, tells this story.

Though everything seems to be quiet and orderly, as it always has been, with the seasons following each other, and good harvests following bad ones, suddenly some strange events start to occur. If some appear to be quite ordinary, even accidental — a farmer’s wife dies falling through rotten floorboards — others are inexplicable and may well be malevolent. Thus, a wire placed at knee-height has brought down the horse being ridden by the doctor, who is severely wounded.

There’s more of the same: an unknown hand opens a window to expose a newborn baby to the intense cold of the winter. A whole field of cabbages, on the baron’s land, are beheaded with a scythe. One of the Baron’s sons disappears: he is found his feet and hands bound, his buttocks lashed by a whip. A barn belonging to the manor is set on fire. A farmer hangs himself. A midwife’s handicapped child is found tied to a tree, in a forest, seriously beaten, with a threatening message on his chest speaking of divine punishment.

The village is worried, and at a loss as to what to do. The schoolteacher observes, investigates and little by little discovers the incredible truth…

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Credits

Director/Screenplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Haneke
Producers . Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Margaret Menegoz and Andrea Occhipinti
Cinematography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christian Berger
Editing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Monika Willi
Production Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christoph Kaner
Costume Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Moidele Bickel
Sound . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guillaume Sciama
Production Company . X Filme Creative Pool/Wega Film/Les Films du Losange/Lucky Red

The cast includes: Christian Friedel (The Schoolteacher), Leonie Benesch (Eva), Ulrich Tukur (The Baron), Ursina Lardi (Marie-Louise, the Baroness), Burghart Klaussner (The Pastor), Steffi Kühnert (Anna, the Pastor’s wife).

Reviews

IMDB member from Germany
Few film auteurs can match the consistency of Michael Haneke, and once again the Austrian filmmaker has come up trumps with an exquisite and brooding mediation on repression, tradition and the sins of the father.

Shot in stunning black and white, the film chronicles a series of mysterious events in a town leading up to the outbreak of WWI. The pace is slow and thoughtful, and the film is reference to August Sander while being a respectful throwback to the German expressionists whose work would come out of the horrors the film’s narrative seems to foreshadow.

The hallmarks of Haneke’s body of work are all there – elegiac tone, clinical editing, wincingly frank dialogue – but in many ways The White Ribbon stands alone in the canon. It is a challenging work that will polarize audiences but represents a breathtaking new wave not just in the director’s career but in European cinema.

Did You Know?

The White Ribbon is the ninth predominantly black-and-white film to be nominated for Cinematography since 1967, when the separate category for black-and-white cinematography was eliminated. Previously nominated films were In Cold Blood (1967), The Last Picture Show (1971), Lenny (1974), Raging Bull (1980) Zelig (1983), Schindler’s List (1993) The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) and Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) This is also the ninth nomination for Germany.

Two Nominations

Best Foreign Language Film~Germany
Best Cinematography

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Amazing Christmas Truce of 1914

During World War I, on and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

An unidentified soldier in a trench during the Christmas Truce of 1914

An unidentified soldier in a trench during the Christmas Truce of 1914

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
A quiet moment in German trenches during World War I

A quiet moment in German trenches during World War I


Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

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Christmas Truce on WWI Battlefield Inspires Theater Show 94 Years Later

The cast of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

The cast of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

A 2008 national theater production, “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” was based on that historic moment, when an extraordinary night of camaraderie brought the spirit of the holidays even into the darkest of places. Written by Peter Rothstein, with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, the presentation features a cast of actors and vocalists who use letters, journals, official war documents, gravestone inscriptions and songs associated with the spontaneous truce to re-create a remarkable sequence of wartime events.

Thousands of men put down their guns and left their trenches to meet their enemies in ‘No Man’s Land’,” said Rothstein, who traveled to museums and libraries in Belgium and London as part of a two- year effort to collect first-hand accounts of the truce. “They exchanged gifts of tobacco, rum and chocolates, even photographs of loved ones. They sang songs, played a game of soccer and buried each other’s dead. Upon orders from above, they eventually returned to their trenches and re-instigated a war that would last four more years.”

That tale, which remains as poignant today as 94 years ago, was re-told on Christmas Day, when “All is Calm” was broadcast to more than 400 public radio stations in the United States as well as on the BBC in Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand. The production featured members of the Minneapolis-based Cantus vocal ensemble and the Theater Latte Da acting troupe.

That these soldiers chose to honor the spirit of Christmas in the midst of chaos is a fitting reason to revisit their actions, Rothstein said, especially as conflicts continue to be waged across the globe.

It is a story that should be heard, especially today,” he said. “A month before the Christmas Truce of 1914, Winston Churchill (who would go on to serve as British Prime Minister during World War II) stated, ‘What would happen, I wonder, if the armies suddenly and simultaneously went on strike, and said some other method must be found of settling this dispute?’ I hope people leave the theater moved, enlightened and pondering Churchill’s prophetic statement.”

Joyeux Noël (2005)

In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorized, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man’s Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood….

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