Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Dark Valley (orig. Das Finstere Tal) 
Der Spiegel (T. Andre) review*
Cinema-Paradiso.at (FAZ) review*
FilmReporter.de (T. Buschkämper) review*
Dark Valley (orig. Das Finstere Tal)  [IMDb] [FZ.de]*[CEu] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Andreas Prochaska [IMDb] [FZ.de]*[CEu] along with Martin Ambrosch [IMDb] [FZ.de]*[CEu] based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Thomas Willmann [de.wikip]* [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is an IMHO spectacularly well done AUSTRIAN "Alpine Western" that played recently at the 2015 - 18th Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago. An English dubbed version of the film is already available in the U.S. on the Amazon Instant Video service. The German version is available on Amazon.de's Instant Video Service as well.
Set in the late 1800s in the Austrian Alps and introduced through the voice of a young woman named Luzi (played by Paula Beer [IMDb] [FZ.de]*) who presents herself as having been "present to all the events recalled," the film is about "a stranger" named Greider (played by Sam Riley [IMDb] [FZ.de]*[CEu]), twenty-something years old, who rides into town one late autumn day to ... Well that was the initial question, what was he doing there? In the scattered villages of high Austrian Alps, everybody knew each other and everything about each other, but NO ONE knew him. Yet he seemed to know something of this town.
After some conversation with Luzi at the local tavern, which she ran with her mother, he does reveal that he comes from America. "Oh! Did you ever see any Indians?" she asks. He answers that he has. Well, what was he, who grew-up in the Wild West doing in Austria? He explains that he and his mother "came from these parts," and that ... "he always wanted to come back." "Your German's not bad," Luzi complements him. He answers, "I know. My mother taught me well."
At this point their conversation is interrupted by a rather large thuggish looking guy, who offers the stranger a drink. The stranger politely refuses. "Hey when I offer you a drink, YOU DRINK," insists the man. Knowingly, with some fear in her eyes, Luzi tells him, "Look you better drink." He refuses. Well the man punches him to the ground and forces a half a bottle of schnaps down his throat telling him "NO ONE REFUSES ME... I tell you to drink and you drink." Well, he's now drunk. What now? After the man goes, Luzi tells him: "He's part of the Brenner Clan. There's a father and six sons and they rule the roost in these parts." The stranger answers: "I know."
In the days that follow, one Brenner son, then another, die of various "Alpine" (logging, then hunting) accidents. The whole town is SHOCKED. And since the Brenner family "RUNS THESE PARTS" they BETTER LOOK SHOCKED, WEEPING / GRIEF STRICKEN (Note here that the famous pass through the Alps between Austria and Italy is actually named the Brenner Pass).
Well, the town may be shocked but Luzi's supposed to get married. She has a boyfriend and as a virtuous girl, she's told him that she won't sleep with him until they get married. And, well, THEY REALLY WANT TO GET MARRIED ;-) ... So despite perhaps good form in any case (after all two locals just died in the town), and CERTAINLY when the local "mafia family's" "grieving" a sudden loss of two sons ... they decide to press on with the wedding anyway.
Guess who's the local priest? ANOTHER of the "Brenner boys" ;-) ... AND HE GIVES PROBABLY THE CREEPIEST WEDDING HOMILY THAT I'VE EVER HEARD:
Starring straight at Luzi and her fiance', kneeling there in front of the altar, he CHOOSES to _extol the virtues_ of St. Joseph: "Now JOSEPH WAS A GOOD MAN, A MAN WHO KNEW HIS PLACE. A MAN WHO RAISED A SON WHO WAS NOT HIS OWN. And he did it GLADLY. He considered it A BLESSING. Because he KNEW THAT HIS SON'S SEED was GREATER THAN HIS..."
Guess what appeared in store for Luzi and her husband ... and perhaps why "the Stranger" AND HIS MOTHER "left these parts for America" when he was young AND why both his Mother and he prepared ALL HIS LIFE FOR HIS "RETURN" ...
The wedding ends, the party heads down to the tavern owned by Luzi's mother. The stranger Greider shows-up at the Church, shot-gun in his hand, barrel pointing down, just as the preacher about to close-up the Church, and asks "to go to Confession." Looking at the stranger, at the gun, barrel still pointed down, back at the stranger, the Priest acquiesces:
"Bless me Father for I have sinned. In these days I've killed two of your brothers ..." By the end of the Confession, he's killed a third ...
Much still needs to play out. Remember there are still three brothers to go, and then there's The Father. There's also a wedding reception going on below.
This is a really great and EVOCATIVE ("Alpine") Western! I saw it at the festival here in Chicago in the German with English subtitles. The version currently available in the United States is dubbed. Hopefully, it's just as good. The scenery / cinematography are absolutely beautiful as is the costuming, and then the absolutely AWESOME, EVER-FOREBODING SOUNDTRACK. Note that with the exception of the locals wearing slightly different hats from the "cowboy hats" of the Old West, the clothing worn by the locals in the film was almost the same as that of the Old West. And the mode of transportation was the horse.
So my "hat off" and kudos to the makers of this movie. This was honestly one great and exceptionally well-executed film!
* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.
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