Shawn Loht on the unseen in Michael Haneke's films.
The White Ribbon provides an exemplary instance of Heidegger's conception of the artwork. The historical meaning of The White Ribbon is quite clear. But one can also observe that the historical significance is of a piece with this film's inherent character of hiddenness, secrecy, and mystery. What the film does reveal, in the voice of the narrator, and the images his memory conveys to us, is delicate, fragile, and not firmly grounded in established fact. Indeed, the unanswered aspects of the film's narrative (told in the way that it is) reflect the oblivion of memory and memory's inability to re-enact events with precision. Thus, not only does the art-character of The White Ribbon render an alethec depiction of the mystery embedded in an historic moment of a people: it also reveals the truth of the fragility of memory, and the fragility of memory as re-presented in images. For the film itself is in fact presented as a memory, a memory that calls out its own inability to discern what is real from what is not. The film for its part similarly conveys the fundamental unreality or unknowability of what its images purport to depict. For, as viewers, we walk away from this film with an explicit lack of understanding of the events conveyed to us, despite what the film actually "showed." Film's finite manner of showing is presented as a problem rather than as a solution. This serves as a reminder of the interpretative character Heidegger highlights in Dasein's existential of understanding. Regarding film images as truth-bearing involves seeing them in an interpretive light, because all understanding is interpretive. All seeing is "seeing-as."
From Phenomenology of Film