Western (2017)

Director: Valeska Grisebach
Writer: Valeska Grisebach
Cast: Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifov, Veneta Fragnova, Viara Borisova
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2017

Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann) is part of a group of German construction workers who come to Bulgaria to work on a project. They soon get in touch with the local population, but language barriers make communication difficult. But Meinhard is intrigued and finds ways to get closer to the locals.

While I liked the general idea of Western that transplants the usual settler storyline into a very modern setting, the resulting film is unfortunately exhaustingly long and not much else.

Western starts basically as Dances With Wolves: Meinhard comes as the modern version of a settler: a German involved in the appropriation and explotiation of cheap Eastern Europe land. He finds a connection with the locals, in particular a woman (who speaks the settler’s language, German). He strikes up a special relationship with an animal, in this case a horse. Transplanting this dynamic from a historical setting to today shows that this dynamic is alive and well today, even if in another context.

But Western doesn’t stop there – it doesn’t stop before it starts questioning Meinhard and the White Savior complex he embodies, thus dismantling that particular trope as well while its at it.

So I appreciated the thought processes and theories behind the film a lot, and Meinhard Neumann was perfectly cast in the role – he simply has the perfect face for it and a kind of melancholic aura that fits amazingly.

But in practice, the film is exhausting, it feels so incredibly long. It actually got so bad that I was worried that they had misprinted the program and the film was 220 minutes instead of 120 minutes. I am pretty sure that they could have made their points more succinctly. Then the film may have actually worked for me instead of just feeling frustrating.

Summarizing: Good in theory, not so good in practice.

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