"I'm now convinced the poor guy is a bit of a sick mutt. With courage." -- Bob Arnold
It must be conceded that Haneke's films are not much fun. But maybe fun's overrated anyway. Life's not all fun; still it's very strange and complicated and compelling, bright and then dark, all on the surface and then suddenly, in unexpected telling moments, striking deep. Working in the large and intricate canvas of ambiguous relations that is The White Ribbon, Haneke attends upon those moments; he captures a good deal of that uncanny problematic depth and complexity; in a small community a whole society is implied; very few artists can really manage that kind of scope. This is a director who understands how much in the human world lies hidden, how many secrets there are, how these secrets can never be fully revealed, how nonetheless the effort to conceal them is always finally overcome by the impulse to reveal them, and how that moment of attempted revelation is the prey for which art works lurk in waiting.
Here is Jennifer Szalai, talking about the open-endedness of Haneke's films. She suggests it implies a kind of optimism.
"[Haneke] once told a reporter that he considered himself a 'realist. That doesn't mean I'm a pessimist. The pessimists are those who make purely escapist films, because they believe people are so stupid that it's useless to make a film about anything serious. But someone who points to wounds in society is also trying to change things, even just a bit.'
"The prospect of a change comes from introducing possibilities rather than covering up the open wound. A therapeutic mantra of closure has insinuated itself into our idea of almost everything, including art; we assume we should be able to walk away from one experience and simply move on to the next. Haneke's films, however, force us to slow down, not just to look but to see, and they reverberate in the mind long after one has left the theater. They are a protest against the kind of complacency that would allow us to behave like the family in The Seventh Continent, so caught up in their daily rituals that they don't really live." (Harper's Magazine, November 2007)