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Thursday, July 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 58.0° F  Fair
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The White Ribbon: The village people

There's a large cast of creepy children.
There's a large cast of creepy children.
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I was excited when I sat down to watch The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke's Oscar-nominated film about mysterious events in a German town just before World War I. But 144 minutes later, I had to ask: That's all?

To be certain, the film has deliciously unsettling moments, thanks to the stark black-and-white photography and especially to the large cast of gratifyingly eerie children (cf. Village of the Damned). And I like The White Ribbon's ominous beginning, in which a narrator, the town's schoolmaster, introduces the strange events and says, with pointed vagueness, that they may "clarify some things that happened in this country."

Then the events unfold. A doctor (Rainer Bock) is badly hurt when someone purposely trips his horse. The young son of the local baron (Ulrich Tukur) is tortured. The other disasters I won't disclose. Meanwhile, the children are acting strangely, and the schoolmaster (Christian Friedel) investigates.

Watching, I got antsy. No one loves a creepy-villagers movie more than I do. Let's hear it for the 1973 Wicker Man! But The White Ribbon is more in the disappointing vein of M. Night Shyamalan's limp The Village. Other than a handful of genuinely weird sights, there's just not enough of the macabre in The White Ribbon to sustain interest.

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