F: Das finstere Tal (Prochaska, 2014)

Released: 2014
Runtime: 114 minutes
Director: Andreas Prochaska
Genre: Western
Starring: Sam Riley, Paula Beer, Tobias Moretti
Rating: Germany – 12

So, when I was choosing films for this challenge, this was easily my most-anticipated on the list. As I had originally intended on exploring European films in general, this had been my choice for Austria – but then when I decided to switch to German-language films, I knew I had to see it.

Here’s the trailers for you all to enjoy first of all. The first one is the original German, the second is the official US trailer – which is dubbed into English, yay!

First of all, before I go onto anything else: if you watched both the trailers, how different are they?! It’s so strange to see where the emphasis is put on the story in different countries. (I think so, anyway.)

But yes, the film itself. Here’s the IMDB synopsis: Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alps. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, or what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.

…I loved it. I don’t watch a lot of Westerns, but this just looked so interesting straight away – and how often do you see a Western set in Europe? So that was pretty cool. My actual analysis is below. As usual, beware of spoilers; I’ve tried to be even more careful, but especially when I start talking about my favourite scene, they tend to crop up.

Things I liked:

 

  • again, the characters! Greider (Riley) seems like a kind of typical Western anti-hero; he’s taciturn and brooding but a little bit badass. He’s not there to save anyone but kind of ends up doing that anyway. It’s nice to see as well that there are points where even he knows he’s gone too far, so we know that he’s essentially a good person, there are just things he feels he has to do. Luzi (Beer) is another important character and it’s refreshing to see someone who is already set up in her life. Greider enters her life and he helps her out, but he’s not there to completely change her – she has her own relationships without him. She is kind of overshadowed towards the end, but that’s realistic too. She’s not the character to go in all guns blazing.
  • the cinematography in this film is stunning. I know they filmed it in the Alps and that’s what they’re known for, but it is beautiful. The filmmakers use this to their advantage too; there’s lots of wide, sweeping shots of the mountains and the snow, which do also create the atmosphere they’re after, but they’re mainly really cool to look at.
  • another thing I noticed in this film that I hadn’t really noticed so far is the music. The songs are in English (at least in the version I watched), which is odd, but I really liked it – to the point where I actually did notice it. The song right at the beginning especially is a good lead in.

Things I didn’t like:

 

  • I knew this film was Austrian going into it. I knew that. I also thought I was a little better at deciphering the Austrian dialect than I apparently am. If you watch it in German, this film is They’re all speaking in dialect and they mumble all the time oh my god. Even in English, they mumble. It is such a pain. However, there is an English dub you can watch if you prefer – and honestly, this isn’t such a dialogue-heavy film. I got the gist without ever really understanding what exactly was being said (for the most part); there was just one thing I had to look up after to check I’d caught it correctly. Don’t let this put you off, but be aware that it kind of can be super annoying.
  • the ending isn’t anti-climactic as such, but it is kind of strange. I think that’s partly to do with my first problem and also because I don’t watch a lot of Westerns, but there was a lot of tension leading up to a big conflict – and then it carried on for a while. I don’t want to give a lot away, but it might drag at the end if you’re not so into it, so be warned.
  • there is (obviously) quite a lot of violence in this film and some of it is kind of gross. People start getting killed off in some rather inventive ways – so again, it’s something else to bear in mind if you want to watch this film.

 

My favourite scene has to be the part where Greider goes to confront the two shop-keepers who sold out his parents years before. It’s not my favourite because it’s nice (it’s not), but because it tests the limits of Greider’s character. He wants to punish everyone but he realises that there is a limit as to how far he can and should go, and it’s interesting to watch because I think you end up very aware that he came into this village with no limits. He was willing to do literally anything to get his revenge without a concern for himself.

And my favourite quote (which you’ll hear in the trailer):

 

Es gibt Sachen über die darf man nicht reden. Sachen, die früher passiert sind. Vor langer Zeit. Aber dass man nicht über sie reden darf, heißt nicht, dass man’s je vergessen kann. Es gibt nämlich Sachen, die lassen sich nie mehr vergessen.

 

There are things people don’t speak of. Things that happened before, a long time ago. But just because people don’t speak of them doesn’t mean that they’ve been forgotten. You see, there are things that can never be forgotten.

I’ll honestly give this film 9/10. It’s not perfect, not by any means, but I was just so excited to watch it and it lived up for that – which is what I want from a film. It was entertaining, it was interesting and I spent a lot of time thinking about it after I watched it. I think probably a lot of people will have very different reactions to me, but this is one of my favourite films I’ve watched for this challenge so far. If you watch it, I hope you enjoy it too 🙂

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