The Wall (Die Wand) (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner09/07/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

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.

The Good
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 Bad
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.

Worth seeing?
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.

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Content updated: 30/08/2014 21:30

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