Western (2017) - Valeska Grisebach
An astute film about the perils of cultural hegemony and nationalistic pride, Valeska Grisebach's Western takes place in the remote region of the Bulgarian countryside, where a group of German construction workers have been contracted into the country on a work assignment. In this foreign land, the German worker's prejudices and distrust of the locals slowly manifests itself, as the language barrier and differences in culture strokes their insecurities and unfounded fears related to a place in which they know little of. At its core, Western is a plea for mutual respect and humanism, a film which demonstrates how our culture, while important, doesn't define us as individuals, recognizing that these differences often are rather insignificant when juxtaposed against the intrinsically-shared nature of the human condition. The main protagonist of this story, a former legionnaire, is a character searching for something, a man whose past, while never fully revealed, is shrouded in darkness and pain. He is a vessel whose actions demonstrate the assured nature of the film's themes, a character whom finds himself stuck in-between the Bulgarian locals and his German co-workers. A fascinating characterization, this is a character who is perhaps not even self-aware of his profound humanism, compared to those around him, a man whose internal conflict and guarded pursuit of emotional substance blind him to the same nationalistic or collectivist pitfalls- prejudice, fear, or even hate. Perhaps due to his past as a legionnaire, he draws little of his identity or virtue from the nation-state in which he was born, a character whom almost seems blinded by his personal search for substance that he doesn't fall into the same old tired nationalist, collectivist trappings which infiltrate some of his fellow coworkers; individuals whom attempt both subtly and not to subtly to inject German culture into the local habitat. Recognizing how fear often is one the main drivers of conflict, the insecurities and immaturity of humankind are at center display in Western, a film which pleas for peace and tranquility among various cultures.
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