22 October 2017 | Raven-1969
Vulnerable Hero Venturing Across the Frontier Divide
On the frontier there is always someone who ventures beyond their companions in understanding and empathy for different cultures. A group of German construction workers in the Bulgarian countryside encounters difficulties with the locals and the foreign terrain. Tensions escalate from miscommunication, misuse of resources, corruption, selfishness, nationalism, arrogance and more. Meinhard, one of the Germans, becomes increasingly amiable with the locals. He attempts to understand their culture and ways, shares his knowledge, teaches a kid to ride a horse, helps with little tasks and drinks rakia (local liquor) late into the night with his new companions. Many among the Germans and Bulgarians do not like this. Even as Meinhard discovers solutions to difficulties and benefits to getting along, there are those in the shadows who want the divisions to remain and who believe that unless you eat, you will be eaten.
A compelling, wonderful and classical story of a vulnerable dreamer who dares to drift across the divide. The director maintained in the question and answer session after the film, that she places emphasis on what is going on inside the characters rather than any ultimate showdown. It is good that she does this, as it is truer to life. It allows the audience (me) to better identify with the characters. Non-professional actors were used in all the roles and the gamble worked, because the film felt more authentic this way. The director also maintained that she was not a micro-manager. She gave the actors space and the trust provided dividends. It makes me wonder why anyone, filmmaker or not, insists upon complete control. In advance of making the film, Grisebach lived in and learned about the area and its people, which turned out to be another good habit on her part. There were some beautiful shots of the landscape, and I wish there were more. Also, I wish there was a little more depth to the dialogue. Un Certain Regard (uncertain regard?) at Cannes. Seen at the Toronto International Film Festival.