7th October 2017 5.45pm at Ciné Lumière
8th October 2017 12.00pm at Vue West End
Interestingly a film about very masculine cultures and drives, Western is directed by a woman, Valeska Grisebach, perhaps adding an edge of objectivity to the subject. Here she combines her tendency toward realism – and that of largely using non-professional actors – with romantic allusions to the American Western.
A construction worker Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann) immigrates to Eastern Europe, his belongings in a plastic bag, to find his fortune in Bulgaria, and like a frontier adventurer in the Old West, he hoists a flag and rides a white horse.
A study of masculinity in its basic forms, the work follows Meinhard as he attempts to befriend hostile natives, confronts rivalry over women and struggles to establish his identity in the pack. These impulses are presented simply as what they are and without judgment. Meinhard’s background is explored, showing his experience in the French Foreign Legion and his brother’s murder, revealing trials and trauma that explain his hardened exterior. His has the calm, stoic demeanour of classic Western movie heroes in the style of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, in contrast to the German workers’ aggressive and impulsive foreman Vincent (Reinhardt Wetrek) who creates chaos and causes trouble with their Bulgarian hosts.
In many ways reflecting contemporary Europe and the US in terms of issues with immigration – and a tribal tendency to fear the “other” and the unknown – the movie touches on this struggle as one that has its origins in instinct but that can be overcome with patience, intelligence and heart.
The setting and cinematography are minimal and not complex, perhaps to strip away judgment and present the human element of the narrative’s events with optimum realism and naturalism, as the primary themes of masculine drives and rootlessness are laid bare. Location shots highlight wildness in the Bulgarian landscape as if to echo the Western frontier, and scenes are filmed as subtly framed compositions. With unobtrusively skilled direction, the acting is genuine and effective.
A quiet study of human behaviour within the context of clashing cultures, Western is a compelling, thought-provoking work.
Western does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Western here: