Western (2018)


See? It’s not just America that deals with America!

A group of German construction workers start a tough job at a remote building site in the Bulgarian countryside, where they’ll be messing with the pipes and all sorts of devices that the locals won’t take kindly to. And while most of these guys are just trying to get by, collect whatever money they can, and be onto the next job, some people may be looking for something far more serious and hell, maybe even permanent. Take, for example, Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), a lonely gentleman who takes constant trips out into this Bulgarian neighborhood, meets a horse, makes friends, and wouldn’t you know it, becomes quite popular around town. However, as time flies by, he starts to realize that he may want this more than he ever expected to, but will they want him back?

Angry men behind you, bro. Just keep going.

What’s really interesting about Western is how there’s not much of a plot in the slightest and instead everything feels like it’s gradually moving around, building itself together, and slowly, but surely, making something of itself. It moves and feels like a documentary; the kind where the first-half is focused on figuring out what its story is, until about halfway through it figures it all out and it’s already too late to leave or check-out. In other words, Western is the kind of movie that will have you scratching your head, wondering constantly just where the hell it’s headed, until it gets going there, and you realize it, and you can’t leave.

You just have to sit it out and it’s both a compelling, if also frightening experience.

Ah. What a beautiful countryside….UNTIL A LARGE CORPORATION DECIDES TO KNOCK IT ALL OUT FOR PERSONAL GAIN!

Writer/director Valeska Grisebach doesn’t seem too keen on letting the audience know what to expect and it works; we never quite know where this movie’s going to go, who we’re going to meet, what it’s going to be about, or better yet, even if there’s going to be some sort of conflict. Western is the kind of movie that finds itself going from place-to-place, scene-to-scene, person-to-person, without telling you what it’s doing and supposed to mean, as much as it’s just asking you to make up your own conclusions. Normally, that would tick me off, but it works here because the material’s already meaty and interesting enough that it feels like Grisebach isn’t taking a short-cut that so many writers do, but actually wanting us to see how we feel.

Like I said, it’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience and it’s the kind of movie that drifts from typical human-drama to, all of a sudden, a small thriller, is surprising, shocking, and above all else, effective. Grisebach’s first flick, Longing, wasn’t anything special as it mostly dealt with a conventional love-triangle that we’ve seen a thousand times before and felt like the kind of movie that wanted to be about something more, but in the end, was really just about a guy deciding between two girls (chicks, man. Right?). Here, with Western, Grisebach seems to actually have a movie that’s about something so much more than simple love and passion, but way beyond that.

To say what it is, would be an injustice to the movie itself, Grisebach, and Meinhard Neumann’s masterful performance in the lead. In fact, I’d wager that the man’s not even acting half of the time, but just instead, doing what he does, with the camera capturing it all.

Still, it works.

Consensus: Though melodic and a little vague, Western casts an entrancing spell that’s sad, smart, and ultimately, compelling.

8.5 / 10

Who needs saddles when you’re German?

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Guild

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