An interesting mystery, studies of odd characters, incredible cinematography, and a story that shows how the roots of evil don't come from the government or outside organizations, but rather the slow erosion of our values and stripping of the human element or our souls.
All this heaviness led to the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and two Oscar nominations in 2009-10. It was a film lauded by film goers and critics alike.
In pre World War I Germany in a small town strange things start happening. This Protestant village in northern Germany is not used to all this as it is usually quiet as a church mouse there. All the weirdness seems to be happening around the young people of the village.
The local doctor is thrown from his horse due to a wire that has been strung up, the wife of a farmer is killed when she falls through a rotten door, the Baron's (Ulrich Tukur – Seraphine, The Lives of Others) barn is burned down, and a young boy is tied upside down and beaten. This cannot all be coincidence.
Guilt, repression and abuse are the pillars that this film rests upon. And those themes are amplified by director/screenwriter Michael Haneke's (The Piano Teacher) decision to shoot it in high contrast black and white. The film's tone is dark and the black and white adds to that. Not a film to watch if you want something to brighten up your day!
It is a quiet, slow film, but do not mistake that for nothing going on. It is all percolating under the surface close to boiling over. You are disturbed throughout this film that looks at the origins of evil because you never really know where the evil comes from. Motivation and blame are ignored while environment is closely looked at.
No easy answers are offered. You think that you are watching a mystery that will be unraveled in the end, but it isn't.