Bruno’s mother is a very interesting character, Vera Farmiga who played her in the film says this of Elsa,
Elsa doesn’t think. She doesn’t think for herself, she doesn’t think deeply. She chooses to be oblivious, concerning herself only with the safety of her family and her position in society – everything else is beyond her periphery. She’s a sort of accomplice and assistant to her husband’s ideals, his desires, his morals and his ambitions. But as she starts to open her eyes to what is unfolding, as she starts to explore for herself, there is a gradual decline of tenderness, trust and respect for her husband. And eventually she stands up and says No! Eventually, she condemns what’s going on. She even tries to get her husband to see the evil that he’s responsible for. But it’s too late . . . She has intuitions; she knows that people are being horribly mistreated. But she doesn’t look; she doesn’t want to see it because seeing it would implicate her husband, and it would implicate herself.