The White Ribbon won't appeal to those wanting a slick, colourful, fast-moving, gimmicky, loud sort of film with a few easy-to-digest plotlines, tidily resolved by the end.
If I had to sum it up in one line I'd say it is majestically Proustian in its treatment of the life of a pre-1stWW rural German community - but without the laughs.
An utterly memorable film that, some months after seeing it, still remains with me. The casting is superb - it's almost impossible to believe that these are not real characters, experiencing real - and terrible - events. The choice of treatment (almost no music except when integral to the story, black & white, long, lingeringly long, scenes full of rich detail making it utterly worthwhile to concentrate and stay with it - and, most impressive of all, no lurid scenes spelling out in prurient detail the cruelties perpetrated - the restraint was so powerfully used it was almost unbearable to think of what was happening...
But bearable it was, surprisingly, and I sat through this long film mesmerised, feeling totally swept up by it; the people and the room in which I sat seemed to disappear and I felt I WAS THERE, a ghostly observer, hardly daring to breathe.
The story took me on a journey I didn't realise I was going to make, and wouldn't have chosen to make but circumstances were such I had no choice but to be there - and I have absolutely no regrets and no doubt that I've seen one of the all-time great films. Setting aside the horrors of the various anguished situations that make up the story, it clears up any soppily Disneyesque ideas one might have had that rural life was golden in those times before the first WW. On many levels, this film had great integrity.