This is a very good film with a few caveats. At two hours and 24 minutes, it’s 24 minutes too long. It’s unstated but clear thesis is that prewar (World War I) patriarchal practices led to the horror of Nazism and pursuant of this thesis, there is only one kind, good man in a very large cast.
Having said that, I was fascinated by the film. It’s beautiful. It’s in luminous Black and White that reminded me of Dreyer’s “Vampyr” and seems very appropriate for a film set in 1914. The director, Michael Haneke, is willing to set up his camera and leave it there, sometimes simply on a closed door with a drama taking place in the room beyond that we follow from the voices.
The film is a mystery. Various acts of cruelty, mostly against children, take place. One is constantly uneasy, dreading the next occurrence. At the end of the film the police think they have a culprit but the audience suspects they’re wrong. All the evidence is laid out but the director never presents a conclusion.
This film has stayed with me. I saw it three weeks ago and have thought about it often. I forgot “Avatar” the day after I saw it.