Stark pre-war Germany film joins Cannes frontrunners

22nd May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Austrian director Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon," won a warm reception from critics for its portrayal, through lives of children, of the strict moral values and authoritarianism of early 20th century Europe.

Cannes -- A stark and chilling black-and-white portrait of a Protestant German village on the eve of World War I on Thursday joined front-runners for the Cannes film festival's Palme d'Or.

Twenty films from the world's top directors are lined up for the award, to be announced at a gala ceremony Sunday night closing the world's biggest annual movie event.

Austrian director Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon," the 16th movie shown, won a warm reception from critics for its portrayal, through lives of children, of the strict moral values and authoritarianism of early 20th century Europe.

To date, another bleak flick, French prison drama "The Prophet" by Jacques Audiard, is being rated by far the top candidate to scoop the Palme d'Or award.

Also well-liked by a foreign critics' panel in trade magazine Screen are Jane Campion's "Bright Star", Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" and "Looking for Eric" by Ken Loach.

French critics too are betting on "The Prophet" with Almodovar in joint second place with veteran French director Alain Resnais for "Wild Grass", according to a panel in magazine Le Film Francais.

Running at over two hours, Haneke's chilling picture of pre-Nazi Germany kept critics glued to their seats, offering a vision of life as it was for the generation who 20 years later would embrace Hitler.

As harvest begins, the village is rocked by a string of mystery acts of violence. The doctor is sent off his horse, the baron's son is found tied up after a beating, but whether the violence is linked to moral or personal punishment remains a mystery.

Children and women are the victims in the movie of beatings, insults and masculine authority.

"All of this existed, I didn't invent anything," Haneke told AFP.

"But beyond recreating history I wanted to tell the story of a group of children who hold up their parents' values as absolutes.

"When you do this you become inhuman because the world is never perfect," he added. "If you think you know what is right you quickly become inhuman. These are the roots of all political terrorism, whether leftwing or rightwing."

But Haneke, award-winning director of "Hidden," "Funny Games" and "The Piano Teacher", said the movie was a universal tale, rather than a tale rooted in German history.

"I would not be happy if people thought this was a film on the origins of Nazism, because it is relevant to any part of the world."

AFP/Expatica

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