German director probes roots of terror

Thu May 21, 2009 11:51am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Strange and menacing events in a north German village on the eve of World War One form the basis of Austrian director Michael Haneke's new film "The White Ribbon," on show at the Cannes film festival.

The film uses a group of children growing up in a morbidly repressive environment of religious hypocrisy and sexual abuse to look at the generation that made Nazi Germany.

But Haneke, whose last film at Cannes was the widely acclaimed "Cache" (Hidden), said he meant to illustrate a wider problem that did not just affect Germany.

"I don't want the film just to be taken as a film about fascism," he told a news conference.

"It was about telling the story of a group of children who take on absolutely the ideals that are preached to them by their parents," he said.

"And whenever you take an ideal in absolute terms, you make it inhuman. It's the root of any form of terrorism," he said.

The White Ribbon was applauded at its press screening and is seen as a contender for the Palme d'Or award, the top competition prize, which has so far eluded Haneke, despite repeated critical successes.

The film opens with an unexplained accident and goes on to show a series of mysterious occurrences that appear related in some way to the children of the village, who behave throughout with an unsettling mixture of subservience and secrecy.   Continued...

<p>Director Michael Haneke poses during a photo call for the film "Das weisse Band" in competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, May 21, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>