Review: Western (2017)


Directed by: Valeska Grisebach | 121 minutes | drama | Actors: Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifov, Veneta Fragnova, Viara Borisova, Kevin Bashev, Aliosman Deliev, Momchil Sinanov, Robert Gawellek, Jens Klein, Waldemar Zang, Detlef Schaich, Sascha Diener, Enrico Manteov, Gulzety Kostcheveren, Gulzetad Zulfev , Katerina Dermendzhieva, Maria Prokopova, Ivanka Popova

A group of German workers is going to build a hydroelectric power station in a virtually uninhabited part of Bulgaria. At first glance it seems that there are few plots where the title “western” is less applicable. Valeska Grisebach proves with this film, however, that the classic, very slow, western can also take place in the eastern bloc of Europe. Cowboys still exist, only nowadays they drive excavators instead of horses.

With a running time of two hours, and a plot centered on the construction of a new hydroelectric power station near a Bulgarian village, this film cannot be expected to be action-packed. This is certainly not the case, but a certain tension remains constant. This tension arises mainly from the contacts between the local population and the German visitors.

One of the Germans, protagonist Meinhard, quickly befriends the local population. He comes a long way in communication, so the Bulgarian villagers take him in their midst. It follows a loyalty conflict that will revolve around the rest of the movie; does Meinhard choose his colleagues or the people who make him feel at home?

However, this central conflict is snowed under by constant new impulses to the story. As a result, the film looks unstructured at various times. This makes the story difficult to follow at times.

Not only is the story difficult to follow from time to time, the characters also leave much to be desired. For example, we only know a little bit of his background about Meinhard, this is almost completely unknown for the other characters, and only a few characters can be recognized who are undergoing some form of development.

All this is reasonably forgivable within the genre of a western. The viewer is in fact inundated with beautiful, expansive shots of the fabulous landscapes in Bulgaria. Within the excruciatingly slow pace of the film, the masculinity and xenophobic tendencies of both parties come to the fore. Scenes in which the umpteenth party is celebrated, each have their own meaning in this way. This builds up the tension between the two parties in a brilliant way, to a conclusion that is as confusing as it is understandable.

Despite the less elaborate characters and the somewhat confusing storyline, “Western” manages to grab the viewer by the throat and suck the beautiful Bulgaria from the comfort of your own chair. Grisebach delivers a poignant, albeit excruciatingly slow, modern Western and proves that this film style has nothing to do with geographic location. Because the cowboy also roams the east.

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