Evil, German attitudes through the Twentieth Century, and humanity
The Second World War has had a terrible impact on society as a whole and it is safe to say that it shaped the way that people perceived the idea of being human and of life in general. Michael Hanake's 2009 motion picture The White Ribbon discusses with regard to a series of events happening in a fictional German village during the era leading to the First World War. While the film discusses ideas that apparently have nothing to do with the Second World War or with the National Socialist ideology, an in-depth analysis would make it possible for someone to find parallels between many of the concepts it contains and values promoted in Nazi Germany.
Haneke's film provides viewers with the image of an apparently perfectly organized village in which everyone is well-acquainted with the idea of hierarchy and with their social status. However, the series of disruptions that these people experience and the fact that this seemingly perfectly organized community often comes across difficult conditions enables viewers to understand that there is more to the film than it seems. The fact that the subtitle to the German release of the film says "a German Children's Story" while the film contains harsh messages demonstrates Haneke's seriousness. The director and the producers were all concerned about making a film that would generate much controversy as a consequence of the sensible topics it relates to.
The film attacks ideas like Christianity, Aristocracy, and Fascism, but while the first two are directly related to, the last is presented in a more subtle way. It actually seems that Haneke wanted viewers to get actively involved in interpreting the plot when considering the way that he structured it. It is practically as if the producers wanted the blame the first two concepts for the development of the third. Authoritarianism and guilt presumably influenced individuals in Germany to express interest in a political ideology that seemed to be the perfect solution to their problems. It seems that the film can actually be considered to stand as explanation as to why so many individuals in Germany supported Nazism.
Subtlety used as a tool to encourage interpretation
The crimes in the film are certainly outrageous, but it gradually becomes clear that viewers should try and search for more as they struggle to interpret the film's plot. While it seems that the director wanted to detach his persona from the overall motion picture, one can sense his interference from the very first moments of the film, taking into account that he introduces a narrator who emphasizes that the film might put across information that can make it easier for viewers to understand why particular events happened in Germany several years after the action in the film. The narrator claims that the movie is probable to "clarify some things that happened later in our country."
As the storyline progresses, the film provides even more information and presents viewers with the opportunity to step in and express their personal opinions with regard to why certain things happen and why these respective occurrences are likely to lead to other, even more serious, events. It is even difficult to determine whether or not the film would be as relevant as it is if it were to be set in another country. The main idea in the film seems to relate to how particular attitudes can influence particular communities to react in a certain way. The film thus focuses on the origins of evil rather than on who comes to commit evil acts. As a consequence, one should not simply search for parallels between the motion picture and Nazism, as it can address the broader idea of evil.
Surely, it would be wrong to consider that the film is only meant to discuss the birth of Nazism, as the topics it relates to are much more complex. Even with this, it is intriguing to observe how the motion picture brings on the German National Socialist type of thinking with the purpose of enabling viewers to understand how evil ideas have a history and how one is probable to come across this history as the particular individual concentrates sufficiently. Wickedness can originate in some of the most basic concepts and persecution based on socially-acceptable ideas is just an example of how complex this matter is.
It is very likely that the film is intended to promote the idea that a person who is subjected to a great deal of suffering is taught to believe that subjecting others to suffering is the key to increasing his or her self-esteem. The fact that German children during the early twentieth century were subjected to a great deal of injustices and were persecuted for actions that were not actually that serious dominates the film's storyline. These respective children grew into adults who had problems integrating a peaceful society and thus resorted to persecuting others with the purpose of improving their society.
All things considered, one of the principal ideas that the films deals with involves the concept of negative ideas being instilled deep into the minds of young individuals. These respective people are thus more likely to express support toward hostile actions, taking into account that they were raised in a society that encourages such behaviors and thus promotes the idea that a person is entitled to doing everything in his or her power in order to act in agreement with a series of laws, even if this means that the respective person needs to resort to harming others in the process.
To a certain degree, The White Ribbon is the embodiment of a series of ideas coming together and getting the producers to work on something that they expected would provide the world as a whole with more information concerning a trauma in the history of mankind. "Life writings often emerge from a traumatic core, occupying a space between two parallel universes: daily life and trauma." (Schwab) The traumatic effect that the Second World War has had on the world can be seen throughout The White Ribbon, given that the film is filled with ideas that are related to the event.
Trauma as the key aspect behind the film
While the film focuses on discussing people's tendency to persecute others as a result of a series of unjust principles that they live by, one of its main motifs involves trauma. The motion picture basically wants viewers to comprehend how trauma can often be ignored as people become blinded with living in accordance with values largely promoted in their community. These individuals go through great trouble in order to put across socially-acceptable behaviors without realizing the effect that these behaviors have on their lives and on the lives of others.
It would certainly be wrong to consider that Germans in the present are responsible for the horrors occurring during the 1933-1945 time period. Furthermore, it would be wrong to consider that the individuals living in that era are solely responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust. One must go further in time in order to gain a more complex understanding of why the Holocaust and World War Two happened. In spite of how present-day Germany has nothing to do with the Second World War, it is difficult and almost impossible for Germans today to escape the stigma associated with the Holocaust. "Collective trauma is passed down to individuals in multifarious and refracted ways." (Schwab) This can be associated both with Haneke's desire to relate to events leading to the Holocaust and to his interest in using a German community living prior to the First World War in his film.
Haneke's motion picture goes at addressing diverse concepts that might have influenced individuals in Nazi Germany to go against Jewish individuals and to support the idea of global warfare. By addressing such ideas, the director wants to demonstrate that an event is but the sum of events that happened in the past. Past occurrences have a great influence on this particular event and can be studied in order for people to be able to understand why the respective event was made possible.
One can see the film as an educational tool -- one that is meant to influence people to look for answers further back in time. Many are inclined to think of trauma as a concept that can only be seen in individuals who actually went through a traumatizing event that changed their lives visibly. However, traumas can often be hidden from the rest of the world and some find it difficult to realize that individuals who they actually know are affected by a certain traumatizing event in their lives.
Schwab's description of old people as persons who often speak with regard to their traumas stands as a perfect example of how traumas can affect individuals without even making them see this. The writer relates to how old people are rarely hesitant about speaking…