Set in a rural German village in 1913, brutal authority is enforced by the baron and the pastor. Malevolent occurences involving the upper class gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual. A school teacher investigates and slowly discovers the incredible truth.
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Haneke is examining how authority attracts and betrays us. Lurking somewhere dim and damp, far behind these images' dry chiaroscuro, are bewildered animals—afraid of the dark, in search of affirmative chastening—omnipotent concepts that reify their dream of order and transparency: the father, the dictator, God. Hope lies in the characters who are away from home and thus unconstricted by its corrupting gravity.
Absolutely fantastic. Everything about this movie is on point: music, cinematography, plot, acting, characterization, the Disturb-O-Meter. Never have I so loathed a character in a film as much as I have the Pastor. I could go on, but save yourself the time and watch it.
The doctor, the pastor and the baron are all hideous men, but for me Klara takes the crown of the creepiest character in this film, because her bleakness and malice seem so hidden beneath the surface, its like you're witnessing a new generation of evil. Astonishing film on all aspects, two-and-a-half hours very well spent. The scene where the little boy is explained by his sister what Death is... so unforgettable.
Haneke doesn't pull any punches. He shows the growth of an ideology with no compassion and little love. The mixture of evil and innocence is heartbreaking. When the minister's son brings him a new bird to replace the one killed by his vengeful daughter it brings tears to his eyes, but he still can't grasp the message. Everyone is locked into a pattern of behavior that is self-destructive.
Haneke is here less concerned with cinematic problems of the 'real' and our bandaged spectatorship, presenting his subject through moralist conventions while holding out on the mollification of narrative anxiety. His subtexts of class conflict, fascism, and punishment/purification are conservative, and between the inchoate and the reductive, advance without the ambiguity and iridescence that moves them actually.
Dour study on the causal relationships and ripple effects of violence (familial, institutional and political) within a microcosmic German village.
A technically accomplished work, although its point (society is responsible for its violent ills - violence begat violence) could have been made with greater brevity. Nevertheless the film insidiously creeps under your skin and Haneke is master of still observation.