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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Das finstere Tal" )

 

directed by Andreas Prochaska
Austria/Germany 2014

 

Into an isolated village in the Alps rides a mysterious stranger named Greider (Sam Riley, CONTROL) claiming to be a photographer from America. Although the locals make him feel unwelcomed, town patriarch Brenner (Hans-Michael Rehberg, SCHINDLER'S LIST) - who rules over the village with the brute force of his six sons and has enforces prima nocta on the new brides - has lodgings set up for him in the home of Gaderin (Carmen Gratl) and her daughter Luzi (Paula Beer, THE POLL DIARIES) who is betrothed to young Lukas (Thomas Schubert). Although the Brenners treat Greider with as much contempt as anyone else in the village, only Luzi starts to question the photographer's motives. When the grisly, seemingly accidental, death of one of Brenner's sons can be seen as cruel fate, the death of another Brenner son follows and it is unequivocally not an accident. Greider is a suspect even before he disappears, and the other brothers start hunting for him knowing that he cannot leave the village until the spring thaw. At first, the believe that he is hiding from them, but it soon becomes apparent that he is actually playing a deadly game of hide and seek with them.

Although the Germans were not so prolific as the Spanish and Italians with their western film output, they did indeed have a place in Teutonic pop culture from the novels of Karl May and their film adaptations (as well as co-production of some of the Spaghetti Westerns). Based on a novel by musicologist Thomas Willmann, the plot of DARK VALLEY - Austria's official submission for the 2014 Oscars - plot features elements familiar to westerns, particularly spaghetti westerns, from the stranger who for unknown or obscure motives cleanses the town's corrupt element (often represented as a family, particularly the male half) to the calculated plan of revenge for an event that happened in the protagonist's past sometimes as a child or before birth (unlike slasher films, westerns champion the vengeance of those mentally arrested by childhood trauma). Some of the old pay for their corruption or cowardice, including the village priest (Erwin Steinhauer) who equates Brenner's claim on the virginity and first children of the village marriages with Mary's acceptance of the "use" of her womb by "one who knows better than I what is good and what is right" and Joseph's recognition that his son "comes from a higher being." Lukas and Luzi are the young lovers for whom the hero must alter his plans to save from the same fate as the loved ones he is avenging. It's Alpine location and German characters are novel, but the snowy setting recalls Sergio Corbucci's THE GREAT SILENCE (with Riley even looking like Jean-Louis Trintignant's mute protagonist in a few shots where he is bundled up in a thick coat and scarf) while Greider's treasured locket recalls Lee Van Cleef's pocket watch in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE minus the musical leitmotif. The execution is sober - and wonderfully simplistic in its cinematography of a natural settings unaugmented by CGI - and restrained up until the climactic slow-motion gun battle with its soulful eighties rock vocal scoring as well as the end credits with the indie alternative folksy rock variation of the African traditional "Sinner Man" (also heard over the opening credits in a more restrained variation). The end result is more of a loving tribute than a reinvention of the genre but well worth viewing.

Eric Cotenas

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Theatrical Release: 13 February 2014 (Germany)

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DVD Review: Film Movement - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Film Movement

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:54:40
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.45 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo; German Dolby Digital 5.1; German Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Film Movement

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Behind the Scenes (16:9; 43:29)
• 3 Deleted Scenes (16:9; 2:05 + 1:18 + 1:29)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 1:26)
• Biographies for director Andreas Prochaska and actor Sam Riley
• Bonus Short Film 'The Gunfighter' by Eric Kissak (16:9; 8:49)
• Trailers for 'Human Capital', 'Traitors', 'If You Don't, I Will', 'King of Devil's Island',
• 'Salvo', and 'Free Men'

DVD Release Date: January 6th, 2015
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

 

 

Comments

Film Movement's dual-layer, progressive, anamorphic disc features a generally attractive transfer, although edge enhancement is pronounced in contrasty shots (including a lot of scenes of characters clad in dark clothing against snowy backdrops). Both German and English audio options are offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo downmixes. German is the preferred track since it makes sense that Riley's protagonist speaks German less fluidly (and utters some lines in English) since his character is American. On the English track, Riley's voice is heard but only actress Beer seems to be dubbed with a German accent (possibly her own voice). The English closed-captioning follows the English subtitle track rather than transcribing the English audio.

Extras start off with a lengthy behind the scenes featurette in which the cast, crew, and author discuss the differences between the source novel and the film (the character in the book was a landscape painter rather than a photographer), the language barrier, and shooting on location among other things. Besides behind the scenes footage, there is also some footage from the read-throughs (with the videography blocking out some of the angles used in the film). Riley comments in English with burnt-in German subtitles while the others speak in German with optional English subtitles. Three deleted scenes are also included in German with burnt-in English subtitles. The first is actually two extensions to a sequence which emphasize Luzi's suspicions about Greider while the second and third scenes place visual emphasis on the technical side of Greider's photography.

Besides the film's theatrical trailer and trailers for six other Film Movement releases (the first three of which also play as start-up trailers), the disc also includes an American western short film.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Film Movement

Region 1 - NTSC

 




 

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