The Dark Valley (2014)

This movie was humorously described to me as "Tarantino meets The Sound of Music." Don't expect either constant swearing and use of the "N" word or needless singing and dancing. Instead, you get a gritty and cold Western that was shot in Austria. If I were to describe it as a combination of movies, I would go with High Plains Drifter meets a German version of The Village. It might be important to some people to know that this is a German-language film, so you have to read the dialog (unless you know German).

Sam Riley comes into town as The Stranger. He's got a German name, but the story keeps referring to him as The Stranger, so that's what I'm calling him. This is a tiny little town in the middle of a big valley on top of a mountain, and the locals don't particularly like strangers. It turns out, a bag full of gold is enough to make them change their minds - briefly. They ask him why he's there, and they don't let us know his response, but they are amazed and impressed enough to let him stay, even though impending snows mean that he won't be leaving until Spring.

The girl in the middle of the poster is Paula Beer, and she is one of the side stories for the movie as well as the narrator. She fills us in on what people were thinking or talking about, and she also fills us in on the history of the town and some pretty horrific things that they've done. In a secluded town like this, one family, and the patriarch most notably, take charge and are responsible for town protection and wield their power like a 10-year-old boy with a brand new Nerf gun.

The movie has a cold feel to it even without the ability to see everyone breathe, but I'll be damned if they didn't ensure that the whole place was so cold that you could see it in almost every shot. Each time they showed Sam break the crust of ice in his water bowl so that he could rinse his face, I shivered. The beauty of the mountains is shot in such a way that you also feel how imposing they are and how impassable any roads out of the valley will be. You can admire them like a forest fire - very pretty and very deadly.

The movie draws you in with the natural empathy with the outsider, as we are presumably dealing with the unknown like he is, but there is clearly a guarded secret that he's hiding. That is made clear by the fact that Paula has told us about the way that no one comes by the valley accidentally. They do NOT get strangers in town. This would mean that he found the place, and he found it for a reason.

Paula's getting married to a local boy, and she clearly wants to be married to him, but the two are more than hesitant to actually wed - they seem to view it with dread - and there's no real indication as to why they might. Eventually, this fact leads to others, and everything comes to a head between Sam and the powers that be.

Acting was very good
Direction was excellent
Story was predictable
Cinematography was very good
Dialog was simple, but effective

Bottom Line: A very good movie that I bet will be remade in English... and will probably be worse for it.



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