Michael Haneke (CACHE) may have directed his most disturbing film yet with this unsettling look at a small German village in the months before the break out of WWI. Shot in the starkness of B&W, it focuses on a series of brutal incidents. Out riding, a doctor and his horse are tripped by a wire, a worker falls thru the rotted floor boards to her death, a young child is cruelly beaten and hung upside down, a retarded child is tortured to the point of blindness, etc. As the film moves on, to our own horror, not only do we suspect the perpetrators of but we fully comprehend the why of it. And the fact that it’s set in Germany speaks volumes (though I’m not sure Haneke intended it as such) of the horrors that were yet to come in its immediate history. The film’s methodical pace is often a drag but ultimately a small price to pay.