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Western — humming with potential conflict

Western — humming with potential conflict

April 11
20:56 2018

Meinhard Neumann in ‘Western’

A hot landscape sprawls before us in Western, a persuasive slice of high art-house from director Valeska Grisebach. The title is playful. Certainly, we have a looming showdown and a grandly laconic male lead, occasionally seen on the back of a white horse. But the man here has a name — Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), one among a gaggle of German construction workers arrived in rural Bulgaria to build a hydroelectric power plant.

Friction between the newcomers and nearby villagers is immediate. A German flag is flown from the scaffold outside the workers’ cabin. “We’re back,” a foreman queasily announces. “It only took 70 years.” Queasy too is the scene that unfolds by the river, as the same foreman taunts a local woman swimming with a friend.

But while the film hums with potential conflict, Grisebach is too singular simply to dress an old genre in new clothes. Instead, she coolly holds back her camera and paces out the escalation of hostilities under a humid Balkan sun. And in Neumann — like the rest of the cast, a non-professional actor — she has a bona fide star, Meinhard an outsider among his countrymen, making fragile connections with new neighbours.


The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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