By Mónica Delgado

The border between Bulgaria and Greece serves as scenario of an intense drama, something which comes as different from Valeska Grisebach’s measured style. A German worker and his confrontation and latter acceptance from a rural community due to the language and local customs, that’s the argument of this Austrian film that opened with big expectations in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes.

Grisebach doesn’t establish polarities; she instead tries to describe this process of a meager man who wants to insert himself in an environment of rough men, where the social warmth appears through his contact with some feminine characters: a matriarch and a young woman with some knowledge of German. The filmmaker stops in this mutual learning that slowly breaks cultural barriers through gestures and situations proper of a masculine universe, like alcohol ridden conversations and work life.

The issues with this foreigner (a remarkable Meinhard Neumann) become more complex with the problems of the construction of a new path for a river that supplies the town with water and becomes an axis for the transactions between men, who decide upon the fate of this collective.

Grisebach supplies her film with old foreigner paradigms, something that is indicated in the title of her film and the genre it refers to: the story of an old hero, an lonely outsider riding a horse, without family and something to lose, trying to create a new bond in this space that pushes him out in an overwhelming manner. And it’s precisely there where the soul that Grisebach gives to her film takes place; adoring his character, focusing all social interaction on the differences placed in Meinhard, as if he was the incarnation of a deeper problem in his way of relating with other people, in his silences, his mimicry when communicating and his need of interaction.

Western is so far a high point in this festival, a fact that confirms the leadership of Maren Ade’s production company as a space for a cinema far away from formulas and closer to new ways of filmmaking.

Director: Valeska Grisebach
Script: Valeska Grisebach
Cinematography: Bernhard Keller
Cast: Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifov, Veneta Frangipova, Viara Borisova
Producers: Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade, Valeska Grisebach, Michel Merkt.