Starkly shot in black and white, its cinematography mirrors the sketchy morality of the village's denizens. The white ribbon leitmotif weaves through the film as a constant reminder of purity and innocence.
Narrated by the local schoolteacher's older, wiser self, we follow the action from his perspective as he looks to the past events for understanding and explanation. As the teacher delves deeper into the occurrences and the mystery unravels, what he discovers seems unbelievable: The events centre around a group of children whose ringleader is the pastor’s daughter. Their actions serve as a harbinger of the next wave of war, when they would come of age. As the children tread the line between sweetness and guile, their innocence is stripped away. The teacher is left to ponder what exactly fuels their malice: Is it a case of nature or nurture? Sometimes painfully difficult to watch, but deliciously ambiguous, the film deftly depicts the banality of cruelty.
The White Ribbon opens in Toronto on Jan. 15, 2010. The film is in German with English subtitles.