Haneke's Film The White Ribbon

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Alice Miller’s theory about how troubled familial dynamics can breed violence for the affected children later in life has been proven time and time again in history, as sex offenders and serial killers commonly point to childhood traumas as the root cause of their violent pathologies. Carving up a famous Oscar Wilde quote, art imitates life, though apparently less frequently so than the inverse, and this is true of Haneke’s film The White Ribbon. In this film, the audience see children who are burdened with guilt, sexual repression, abuse, and what Stewart (2010) refers to as a “culture of punishment” going on to play out similarly violent pathologies on the townspeople (p. 41). Though the viewer is left unsure of how long these acts have been taking place, the plot before us shows the children enacting their violent rebellion shortly after being exposed to their parents’ psychotic pathologies; in this way, The White Ribbon acts as an accelerant or incubation tank that proves Miller’s theory in short order.…show more content…
Haneke’s film rejects the Nazi film industry’s dominant narratives of positive identity and community and challenges film’s role as a “distraction,” choosing instead to present it as a discourse on dysfunctional punishment culture. While subverting the traditional role of German film with a modern critique that undermines Third Reich social order and ideology, Haneke gives the viewer two examples of the poignancy of Miller’s theory; on-screen, we see the children banding together to inflict harm on the townspeople, while on a larger scale off-screen we know that these are the children who will grow into the Nazi generation who perpetrated WW2

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