|DVD Das finstere Tal
Director: Andreas Prochaska
Writers: Martin Ambrosch, Andreas Prochaska
Stars: Sam Riley, Tobias Moretti, Helmuth Häusler
Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alpes. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, nor what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.
Country: Austria, Germany
Release Date: 13 February 2014 (Germany)
Budget: €6,350,000 (estimated)
This Movie is exceptional German/Austrian Movie. Never saw a Western in this Setting. Sometimes it reminds me of The Great Silence from 1968. But there is something that destroys this incredible Film. The Songs of the Soundtrack are extremely rubbish. What was in Prochaskas Mind, when he choose these Songs? Sad. Great Atmosphere and fine acting, destroyed by a Soundtrack. However, I hope this is the beginning of a new Revival for the European Western. But this time they don't try to pretend that the stories are happening in the US. I can imagine a Western in the Black Forest, or in the flat, wide region of northern Germany, or a polish one.
Another reviewer mentioned "The Great Silence" – exactly, that's the best comparison. It's a very condensed western without any frills, using little dialogue and less colour and relying on the character faces (congratulations, good casting and make-up here). In fact, the reduced colour palette gets a bit grating after a while; during the whole winter sequence (about 90% of the movie) there's not a single spot of green on the screen; everything is black, blueish-white and sepia tones. Even the shootout was shot in this muted palette – come on, blood on snow makes for such a nice contrast! And we never see a blue sky. I liked how they went for "different" when shooting those landscapes; it's rare that the mountains look that dreary, cold and inhibiting on the screen – but some scenes really could have used some colour.
Besides the dull palette, there were also some questionable (read: ridiculous) choices for music/soundtrack. And, really, there was not much tension since the story unfolds along well-trodden lines with not a single surprise anywhere. Otherwise, I can recommend this to anyone who likes a tight western. In Germany/Austria's world of streamlined TV-coproductions, this is a nice exception with its uncompromising look and story and the use of local idioms and dialect.
I think it's best to start with what this film does best.
The cast is amazing – every face is one to remember and each do their job very well. The look of this film is also very credible and captures the stunning scenery in a very professional way. I also had nothing to complain about the editing, grading and overall pacing of "Das finstere Tal" – it bears nothing unusual which might jeopardize your enjoyment…
And that's exactly the problem with it. While I was let to believe to see something new I got a very uncreative recycling of things I already know and not necessarily like.
First of all – this "guy comes back to a village for a killing spree to avenge his family" is something we have seen I don't know how many times. Furthermore I didn't get caught by surprise at ANY moment since the story is extremely linear and doesn't contain even one twist.
Film experts always tell me that a great movie shows character development, meaning that at the beginning we have a protagonist who grows over the course of the story and is somehow wiser at the end. This just doesn't happen here. Guy comes, does his business, and leaves, full stop.
I have seen this film at a theater with a friend from Austria. He told me that basically each actor speaks a different dialect (which I started noticing too after he told me). That's interesting since they're all from the same small village. At some point it's almost too obvious, especially when even brothers speak a different "language". This is really sad because it is something that the director was particularly proud of.
The music, well, and there was the music. The low points are definitely beginning and end when some poppy songs are played that aren't even good but rather corny and generic – but one look at the credits hints that one composer is related to the director (so one can imagine how that happened). The rest of the music is an ambitious attempt to sound international – not bad, but not really good either.
Sam Riley really shines and glues this film together. His German is quite credible and he delivers a performance that probably even exceeds the script – which is fairly generic and, like I already said, very linear.
"Das finstere Tal" is further proof that Austrian cinema is becoming a player on international ground. It looks good, feels good and follows known traditions and standards. But on the other hand this is also the fatal flaw of this film – it doesn't surprise at any point, contains no twist and doesn't transcend anything we have seen until now.
For the story I would give 6 Stars, because in this movie, you will see rather stereotypical, flat characters with no character development and the story could be a bit faster. So, why did I give 10 stars?
First of all, it is an Austrian movie. This does not make a movie better and in fact, I dislike most Austrian movies. But this one is special in a way. I think in order to understand this, one needs to understand how I (and other Austrians) perceive German and Austrian movies.
Most German movies do not come up to the beautiful cinematography of this movie. This is interesting, because Germany has a larger market than Austria. Yes, at times there was a frame too much, but the cinematography is pretty good.
One has to understand, that Austrians are pretty influenced by the genre of "Heimatfilm", which portrays a rather idyllic world. Austria has a rather low crime rate and when we see American movies, it seems to be impossible that such a movie could work in Austria. We do not shoot people in the alps, we go hiking and skiing.
Another thing is the language. Most German movies use standard language, which is a big problem. We are used to hear the voices of extremely good dubbing actors in Hollywood movies and when we listen to the voices of regular actors in German movies, the performance is usually laughable. This movie on the other hand, uses the Tyrolean dialect. This makes the movie much more authentic (and unfortunately harder to understand for Germans). In a way, this was a risky move, because Germans might dislike this, but on the other hand, this largely contributes to the contradicting nature of this film.
This movie creates something impossible: A western in the alps with Hollywood like cinematography and people who speak like farmers.