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Drama Movies

October 17 2018 Drama Movies Newsletter

"Westerns also grapple a great deal with society. They show it at a relatively early point of development...you're still asking yourself what are the rules of the game, whether it's about empathy and compassion or about the rule of the strongest, the rule of force. It's a very conservative genre, but it also reflects existential questions in an entirely modern way." German filmmaker Valeska Grisebach

Grisebach wrote and directed the 2017 film "Western". Her contemporary take on the genre is set in Bulgaria which, with the open borders created by the European Union, could be considered a new frontier. Her protagonist Meinhard is one of a group of Germans who travel to a pristine corner of Bulgaria to build a hydropower plant.

The arrival of the Germans has clear colonialist overtones as Vincent, the leader of the crew, states "We're back - only took 70 years." Meinhard, who feels alienated from this point of view, tries to develop a close relationship with the Bulgarians in a nearby village. The enraged Vincent physically assaults Meinhard, telling him "you're either with us or against us."

"Western" is streaming on Amazon and one person complained in an onsite review that "nothing happens" in the film. It is true that Grisebach sets up situations that have explosive potential but do not catch fire. As evidenced by the quote above, she is more interested in existential questions concerning her characters than plot. The film is an exploration of Meinhard's search for belonging and his failure to attain it.

"Western" will be screening at the Milwaukee International Film Festival which begins tomorrow, October 18th, and runs through November 1st. Ticket and schedule info is available at MKEFilm.org.

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Angela K. Peterson, Drama Movies Editor

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