REVIEW: The Dark Valley (2014)

Right before its cinematic release Andreas Prochaska’s new film The Dark Valley (original: Das Finstere Tal) premiered last night in Berlin in the festival’s new venue Zoo Palast.

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An hommage to genre – that’s what Prochaska’s films have in common. His oevre contains the horror-thriller Dead in 3 Days (2006) – produced in the style of an American teenage slasher á la I know what you did Last Summer (1997) – and the comedy The Unintentional Kidnapping of Mrs. Elfriede Ott (2010), which can be seen as an exaggerated and eccentric version of a comedy of errors. Following this tradition, Prochaska found the inspiration for The Dark Valley in the Italian Spaghetti-Western and Tarantino’s latest Django Unchained (2012).

Following a long forgotten path, a lone rider (Sam Riley) descends into a mysterious valley hidden away between majestic mountains. Wide-angle shots, like we remember them from Sergio Leone’s 1960s classics, show the vastness of the landscape threatening to swallow the small black figure crossing them mounted on and leading another horse. As the man reaches the village and rides down its main road, its inhabitants stare, but dare not speak. The stranger is met with hostility, until he produces a sack of gold. Money is a welcome guest in this village.

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The man, who calls himself Greider and pretends to be a photographer, is accommodated by the widow Gader (Carmen Gratl) and her daughter Luzi (Paula Beer). Soon after his arrival, winter sets over the valley and brings not only snow, but also darkness and death. The Brenner farmer and his six sons rules over the village with an iron hand, but when two brothers die under mysterious circumstances, their grip tightens even more. Slowly Prochaska reveals the gruesome past of the village and unfolds Greider’s real identity.

As a genre film, The Dark Valley is laden with clichés of the Western film – some hit spot on, like the wide shots of the overwhelming landscape, ominous close-up shots of the duelling men’s faces, the story of lone hero freeing a village from a gang of villains, the village set resembling an typical Western town, the “saloon”. His lonesome position framed by heroic deeds and glorifying dialogue appears, however, to be stronger influenced by the American Western tradition – cheesier than it has to be.

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At first glance it seems Prochaska jumped on the train “New Western film” a bit late, but the result co-produced by the tiny Austrian film industry wipes any doubts away. Prochaska delivers a solid film – humerous, bloody and emotional.

Release Dates:
Germany – February 13
Austria – February 14

Watch the German trailer here.

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