German-Austrian film offers new twist on an old genre
You’ve seen most of these Western genre ingredients before — a brooding stranger in town with an unknown motive, a powerful family that runs the place without sympathy, the basically good but helpless townspeople who are caught between resentment and resignation.
What you haven’t seen is cowboys speaking German against a backdrop among the Italian Alps, a location that distinctly evokes an atmosphere of the European Middle Ages.
Cowboy with a camera
In “Dark Valley,” one gray day just before the onset of the long mountain winter, a lone man shows up in the valley leading a pair of horses. Greiner by name, he’s an American (played by British actor Sam Riley) who speaks the German language of the land. Among his gear is one of those newly invented tripod daguerreotype cameras, with which he plans to capture the majestic landscapes of the region.
In spite of the general suspicion of strangers, and in spite of the frosty greeting by the local strongman Brenner and his six menacing sons, Greiner finds a place to stay with a widow and her daughter, Luzi, who it turns out is the source of the movie’s voiceover narration. Luzi is about to be married to a local boy, Lucas, but not until Brenner can claim his feudal “first night” privileges.
When one of Brenner’s boys is found dead, it looks for all the world like an unfortunate accident. But the death of a second one in short order is a good deal more suspicious, and guess who’s a prime suspect?
Oater with an accent
The revenge motif is a familiar one in the Western tradition, from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to Claudia Cardinale. And, of course, the theme of frontier justice looms over everything, with fearless men rearing up on their white horses no matter how many black hats are lined up against them.
What we see less frequently are the deep snows underfoot and the majestic peaks overhead. The soundtrack of soulful ‘80s rock is a special
IT’S NEVER TOO COLD for a showdown in “Dark Valley.”
MARRIAGES IN THIS remote village all get off to a rocky start.