out of Five
Running time: 108
Beautifully shot and strikingly scored, this is an engaging,
thought-provoking and defiantly existential drama with a terrific
central performance from Martina Gedeck.
What's it all about?
Directed by Julian Roman Polsler and based on the Austrian cult novel
by Marlen Haushofer, The Wall (or Die Wand, original title fans) stars
leading German actress Martina Gedeck as an unnamed woman who drives
into a spectacular Alpine valley, intending to spend the weekend in a
cabin with her friends Hugo and Luise (Karlheinz Hackl and Ulrike
Beimpold). However, when her friends disappear after hiking to a
nearby village, the woman sets out to look for them and runs smack
into a giant invisible wall that seems to block her off completely
from the outside world.
Exploring the perimeter of the wall, the woman discovers a couple who
appear to be frozen in time and concludes that the world outside her
wall may have ended. With just a faithful dog (called Lynx), two stray
cats and a pregnant cow for company, the woman gradually learns to
adjust to her new situation, writing her thoughts in a diary as the
seasons come and go.
Martina Gedeck is terrific as the unnamed woman, striking a moving
bond with her various animals (especially the dog) and conveying an
enormous amount with minimal expression and very little dialogue (she
has extraordinary eyes and a mildly hypnotic face). The script is
equally good, refusing easy answers and encouraging the audience to
draw their own conclusions – allegorical or otherwise – about what the
wall might mean.
The film is beautifully shot throughout, courtesy of no less than nine
acclaimed Austrian cinematographers, who each filmed through different
seasons – a winter moment involving a fox is particularly striking. The film also features some genuinely stunning sound design work that gives the piece a strongly immersive feel and creates a powerful atmosphere.
The main problem with the film is that the incessant voiceover from
the woman's journal detracts somewhat from what we're watching on
screen; it also eventually feels rather repetitive, to the point
where you question why she's continuing with her journal in the first
place. On top of that, though the unknowable quality of the wall is a
large part of the film's appeal, her immediate reactions are
frustrating and unrelateable (she's remarkably unfazed, first of all)
and you can't help wishing she'd adopt more of a Robinson Crusoe-type
approach, staking out the limits of the wall and so forth.
Beautifully shot and satisfyingly weird, The Wall (Die Wand) is an engaging and
thought-provoking Austrian drama with a terrific central performance
from Martine Gedeck. Worth seeing.
The Wall (Die Wand) (12A)