Two Westerns


Western (Germany 2017) d. Valeska Grisebach

A team of German workers travel to Bulgaria to build a dam. One of them, Meinhard, becomes interested in the people who live in the nearby village. The tensions between these two groups sharpen even as Meinhard’s relationships extend and deepen. This film has been billed as a thriller, though its pace is so deliberate that any “thrills” play out virtually in slow motion. Grisebach, the director, has said that she was raised on a steady cinematic diet of US American westerns as a child in West Germany and that she saw this film as an opportunity to explore homosocial forms of masculinity. The denouement defies expectation.

Sweet Country (Australia 2017) d. Warwick Thornton

The Australian and US American frontiers share both sublime terrain and a history of racist violence. Sweet Country dramatizes the paradoxes of settler colonialism and white supremacy, in particular the unavoidable dialectic of contempt and intimacy both of those power structures depend upon and produce. If the Crown’s law can distinguish between murder and self-defense, the passions ruling white colonists will never permit such a distinction. The darkest aspects of frontier life— particularly the antagonisms between sacred and profane, savage and civilized— are vividly rendered here with artful camera work.