Director Michael Haneke brings a pre-WWI Protestant German village to life in this powerful film. he action takes place in a German village in the fifteen months that precede World War I. Among the people who live there are a baron, who is a large landowner and a local moral authority, his estate manager, a pastor with his many children, a widowed doctor and a schoolteacher who is thinking of getting married. It is he who, many years later, tells this story. Though everything seems to be quiet and orderly, as it always has been, with the seasons following each other, and good harvests following bad ones, suddenly some strange events start to occur. If some appear to be quite ordinary, even accidental -- a farmer's wife dies falling through rotten floorboards -- others are inexplicable and may well be malevolent. The schoolteacher, whose pupils are growing more and more unruly, and who is considering getting married (it is the only love-story in the film), starts little by little to unravel the mystery.
Why do the children behave in cruel inexplicable ways? The schoolteacher can't say. They are haunted by dark feelings, fears, a desire to revolt, to dominate, to conceal, to be violent. All this is heralding something that will explode fifteen or twenty years later, when this generation has grown up.
Click here for a video clip, read Mick LaSalle's review, then head for the Landmark Theater at the Embarcadero to see this powerful film.