Ger­man-Aus­trian film of­fers new twist on an old genre

Yuma Sun - - DESERT LIFE - Thurs­days at the Theatre

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.

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