A German-language revenge Western set in the Alps during the 1800s? Sounds questionable, but The Dark Valley is a little gem that came out of nowhere—at least, I hadn’t heard about it. The film begins with a mystery: a young couple is hiding in a basement when a group of men swarms down on them, beating the man and dragging the woman away, screaming.
Years later, a German-speaking stranger from the States with daguerreotype camera arrives in a gloomy town on a gloomy day just before winter breaks. The town is filled with gloomy, unwelcoming inhabitants under the rule of Old Brenner (Hans-Michael Rehberg) and his six backass, brawny sons. The stranger, Greider (Sam Riley), convinces the Brenners to let him stay to take photographs of the valley, and they set him up with widow Gaderin (Carmen Gratl) and her daughter, Luzi (Paula Beer), who is engaged to Lukas (Thomas Schubert). Something is amiss, and the Brenners clearly don’t take kindly to strangers. War erupts after two of the Brenner boys die in “accidents.” Who is this Greider, anyway
The Dark Valley combines flavors of Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers. Its heavy and brooding tone is palpably serious, even bordering on comical. It works, though—director Andreas Prochaska manages to avoid crossing over into cheese. Visually, the look is crisp, artful, and beautiful. I could have done without hearing either version of “Sinnerman”—one by Clara Luzia and the other by One Two Three Cheers and a Tiger—but I enjoyed this film for what it is.
(Gene Siskel Film Center) B-