Austrian born filmmaker Michael Haneke has left his mark on the international film industry and secured himself a place in history, winning this year's Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or for his haunting black and white film The White Ribbon (Das Weisse Band). The film was released on November 13 in Curzon Cinemas around the UK.
Justifiably so, Haneke shares this accolade with some of the most highly acclaimed film directors in cinematic history. Filmmakers who have earned this award include Cecil B. DeMille for his film Union Pacific; Orson Welles for The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice; and the previous year's winner Laurent Cantet for The Class (Entre les Murs).
Haneke's winning film is set in a small Protestant town in Germany between the years 1913-14. Sitting on the doorstep of the first World War, the opening scene introduces the narrator. I am not overly keen on stories told via narration but Ernst Jacobi (who plays the narrator's voice) seems to have a way of whispering the stories into my ear so it seemed I was listening to the tales of an aged man seated beside me at the park on my lunch break.
Jacobi talks of his time as a school teacher and the perplexing events that took place while he lived in the village. Interwoven amidst the village affairs, the youthful school teacher, played by a well cast Christian Friedel, falls in love with a nanny who is soon forced to return to her home town. There is innocent flirtation between the couple and Haneke creates a wonderful way of presenting how a man was once required to court a young woman by first requesting permission from her father. That scene in particular was shot so well that I felt nervous for the hopeful lad. Watching him sit face to face with the girl's father was like walking upon thin ice while carrying a backpack full of weights.