Subtly applying the themes of the American western to Europe’s eastern frontier, Valeska Grisebach’s drama mines the tensions and the bonds that develop between a German construction camp and a nearby Bulgarian village.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
German director Valeska Grisebach (Longing) turns a keenly observant eye on the macho environment of a German construction camp on Europe’s eastern frontier.
“It’s better to forget the title of Valeska Grisebach’s Western while you’re watching it... Though this brilliantly observed mood piece about a German road crew arriving in rural Bulgaria centres on one lone quietly watchful man doing his best to assimilate, it feels as true to, say, the builders’ milieu of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet as it does to an oater.
Our quiet hero Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann) aside, the crew behave brashly when they arrive, camping on a hill and raising a German flag, but soon find their work stymied by lack of water and the non-arrival of gravel. Meanwhile Meinhard has borrowed a white horse from a local fixer, and gang boss Vincent has upset the villagers by ducking a local girl in the river. The film unfolds from these tensions in deeply satisfying intimate, brooding encounters.”— Nick James, Sight & Sound
“Valeska Grisebach’s stunning existential study of masculinity tips its hat to classic genre cinema even as it casts an extraordinary troupe of non-professional actors as its grizzled migrant construction workers in a foreign land... Although attuned to emotional hardship, Western is far from a miserable trudge... The film also luxuriates in the pleasures of adventure and discovery... Free of affectation and distinguished by a generosity and sincerity exceedingly rare in cinema, Western’s poignant celebration of human resilience is nothing short of spectacular.”— Giovanni Marchini Camia, Sight & Sound