Dave Calhoun in Time Out London, via David Hudson’s The Daily:
"For quite some time at the beginning of Michael Haneke’s latest film, which is a two-and-a-half hour parable of political and social ideas set entirely in a north German village in 1913 and 1914, you wonder what you’re watching, how its disparate parts hang together and what it all might mean. More than ever, the playful, challenging, sometimes shocking director of Hidden, Funny Games and Time of the Wolf solidly resists answering the ‘what’s it all about?’ question and makes you work hard to make sense of what you’re seeing. As in Code Unknown, he resists focusing on one story or a limited number of characters and instead offers a wide, rich canvas of people and experiences linked only by the fact that they are neighbours and increasingly all subject to a burgeoning threat from within. The hard work pays off."
Mike Goodridge in Screen Daily:
"When he is on top form Michael Haneke’s artistry and unerring control of his material is hard to beat. And he is on top form in The White Ribbon, a meticulously constructed, precisely modulated tapestry of malice and intrigue in a rural village in pre-World War I northern Germany. It’s a rich, detailed work pregnant with the sinister undertones and evil deeds for which the film-maker’s work is legendary and won’t disappoint Haneke fans waiting for fresh material after his experimental US remake of Funny Games."
Eric Kohn at indieWIRE:
"Despair haunts every moment of Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. The director’s dour, Bergmanesque black-and-white portrait of enigmas and familial discord in a Protestant German village at the beginning of the twentieth century peddles in the art of downbeat expressionism. Pairing visual mastery with a quietly immersive story, The White Ribbon plays like a morbid version of Our Town, patiently revealing the inward discord beneath the surface of a settled community. It’s a frightening depiction of mortality."
Xan Brooks in The Guardian:
"Where À l’Origine is concerned with the present, The White Ribbon looks to the past. Michael Haneke’s stark, subtle pastoral plays out in feudal rural Germany in the runup to the first world war and spotlights a series of mysterious crimes that may just have been committed by the village children. The White Ribbon’s blend of formal, poetic compositions and hushed, simmering drama reminded me variously of Malick and Bergman, and if the picture finally does not quite achieve the level of a masterpiece, this may be down to the fact that I’ve always found Haneke to be a cold, stern and aloof director; the creator of films that I can admire but never love."
Wendy Ide in The [London] Times:
"Shot in sober black and white, with no musical score and told with a stately and deliberate pace, The White Ribbon is infused with a fascinatingly austere cruelty. As it focuses largely on the generation that would go on to embrace the tenets of national socialism, it is tempting to read the film as an allegory for the foundations of Nazi Germany in the psyche of its people. But as with much of his work, particularly Hidden and Code Unknown, Haneke leaves us with more questions than answers."
Michael Haneke, as quoted in Movieline:
“I don’t want this film to be taken as just a film on fascism. What I was setting out to make is a film is that says any ideal will become perverted when it is formed to an absolute. It’s not meant to be just a German problem, it’s problem for everybody.”