Themes of guilt and denial haunt this riveting Palme d’Or-winning masterpiece by Austrian auteur Michael Haneke ('Happy End', 'Amour', 'Funny Games').
In a village in Protestant northern Germany on the eve of World War I, a series of unsettling and distressing incidents take place. Taken together, they assume the character of a ritual – in which punishment and torture dominate. But the identity of the perpetrators remains a mystery. A schoolteacher who has observed the unfolding incidents investigates and, little by little, discovers the disturbing truth.
Are we being asked to consider whether these events heralded something that would explode years later with the rise of Nazi Germany? Did these events contain the germs of the tragedies that followed? Haneke has never been one to give us answers, often leaving us with more questions at the end of his film. But here we have a sense that he is warning us – particularly timely in an era that once again sees the rise of populism – about the dangers inherent in not seeing the course our actions will have over subsequent generations.
★★★★★ "This is a profoundly disquieting movie, superbly acted and directed" - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
★★★★★ "A tightly-wound, fully-fleshed and thoroughly mesmerising drama" - Sukhdev Sandhu, The Telegraph