Monday, December 28, 2009


Peter Bradshaw thinks Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon is one of the best films of the decade. He may be right. Few films resonate as this one does.

It's suggested that this deceptively simple photo by August Sander provides a link:

The subject's uniform and helmet grab the modern viewer's attention. But the background -- the specific context (perhaps his home village?)-- is also a vital part of the image. And the young face can be interpreted in many ways. As for the fate of this individual, what do we know?

Writing in 1931 -- some years before this picture was taken, of course -- Walter Benjamin dryly observed of the early stages of Sander's great project:
Work like Sander's could assume an unlooked-for topicality.
Benjamin also quotes Goethe:
There is a delicate empiricism that so intimately involves itself with the object that it becomes true theory.

P.S. 30 Dec: In the NYT, A.O. Scott is sniffy about this film:
Forget about Weimar inflation and the Treaty of Versailles and whatever else you may have learned in school: Nazism was caused by child abuse. Or maybe by the intrinsic sinfulness of human beings.
But the film allows for, indeed encourages a more complex view: not a case of either (historical determinism) or (human weakness), but both.

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