Globalization has inexorably changed the face of the world. Since the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the membership of the (now) European Union has grown from six states to twenty-eight (for a year, at least). The rapid expansion east to incorporate former Soviet Bloc countries has led to a huge wave of migration westward. This has caused social and economic issues across the union. In her new film Western, Valeska Grisebach focuses on a culture clash and the fight for limited resources in rural Bulgaria.
A group of German construction workers, led by Vincent (Reinhardt Wetrek), arrive at a remote site in the Bulgarian countryside with the task of building a power station. Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), a new member of the team, struggles to fit in and soon comes to loggerheads with Vincent. Whilst the locals are stand-offish and mistrusting of the Germans, Meinhard’s persistence is rewarded as he strikes up a friendship with a local quarry owner (Syuleyman Alilov Letifov) and gradually is accepted by some of the villagers. However, conflict is never far away.
Western is a film about cultural misunderstandings, an innate human longingr for a sense of belonging and frayed masculinity. Meinhard Neumann is brilliant with his cowboy swagger, refusing to let anything get in his way. In many ways he’s lost. Struggling to find his place in the world and somewhere which feels like home. The vistas are beautiful and the village seems almost like a paradise, but ugliness lurks not far below the surface. Western is a slow-burning and tense drama which brings the Wild West to the Balkans.
Western is in cinemas from 13 April.