Wall, The

Rating:

UNDER THE DOME lite, but shorter and not as convoluted.

Main Cast: Martina Gedeck

Director: Julian Polsler

If you weren’t already convinced of the futility of life before, watching the 2012 Austrian movie The Wall (DIE WAND) will surely seal the deal for you. Holy crap.

Taken from a 1963 novel by Marlen Haushofer, the movie is written and directed by Julian Polsler (Anna and the Prince), and tells the story of an unnamed woman who accompanies friends to their hunting lodge in the mountains. Once settled, the couple return to a nearby village while the woman remains at the cabin with the couple’s dog, Lynx. The next morning she wakes up to find the couple never returned. Donning her shoes and with the dog in tow, she sets off on foot for the village to see if anything has happened to her friends. On the way there, she’s suddenly met with an invisible wall that is separating her from the rest of the world.

Confused and unnerved, she makes her way back to the lodge, passing a couple who live nearby. She tries to get their attention only to realize the couple are frozen on the other side of the wall, the woman sitting peacefully on the porch while the man gets water from a pump. The water spills and spills over his hands, but the old man never moves.

They’re dead over there, the woman decides, and returns to the hunting lodge. Later, she tries to drive through the barrier, but wrecks the car instead. In despair, she is at least thankful she’s got Lynx with her, and she begins the process of living her life of solitude.

Over the course of three years inside the wall, she gains a cow and a stray cat to add to her responsibilities, happy for the job of caring for them, knowing if she didn’t have them, she’d have little reason to go on. She lives off potatoes and fruit, and whatever game she’s able to hunt, despite how much she loathes the process. She harvests hay and chops wood. And she writes down her experience.

The Wall was a movie I wasn’t too sure of going into it. It’s almost an hour and forty-five minutes, and its Austrian, which meant a long time reading subtitles. But luckily, the spoken, subtitled dialogue was light, while the woman’s overdubbed narration was in English. If that had been subtitled, too, I may have given up and watched something else. Fortunately, I was able to focus on the watching of the movie itself instead of keeping up with the reading of it. And it’s a good thing, because it was a really beautifully shot movie.

Martina Gedeck (The Good Shepherd) as the Woman carries the movie all on her own, portraying her transformation over time from city girl to self-sufficient mountain woman perfectly. She had a strength I’m not sure I would have ever found if I were in her position. In fact, I can say with absolute certainty I would not have lasted three years.

My only problem with this movie was the woman’s lack of motivation to understand. We see her exploring, but we never see her trying to define the limits of the wall surrounding her. That would have been the first time I tried to do, figure out how big this thing is and is there an exit somewhere? But it never seems to occur to her. Nor does she bother spending much time wondering where it came from, why it’s here, or anything else about it. In fact, she seems to accept the truth of the wall really quickly and never stops to question it.

Another, smaller problem (okay, so I had two), is a question of character. I said earlier the Woman transforms from city girl to mountain woman, but that’s only an assumption. What or who this Woman was before arriving at the hunting lodge with her friends, we have no idea. Maybe these things were explored in the book, but the movie never hints at any of the answers. We don’t know why she’s here by herself with this older couple. We don’t know her background. We don’t know what in her past has made her so capable of surviving the conditions she’s forced to endure. Personally I think her character arc would have been so much stronger if we had some idea where she was coming from on her journey to where she ended. But it was not meant to be, I guess.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this movie. Originally intrigued by the idea on Netflix: “Vacationing with a couple in their mountain retreat, a woman finds herself alone at the cabin one day, inexplicably trapped by an invisible wall,” it didn’t take any more than that for me to add it to my queue. It’s not the most action-packed thing in the world, but what it lacks in excitement it makes up for in sheer watchability. The direction and cinematography are beautifully accompanied by some excellent sound design and a great score, all of it highlighted by Gedeck’s wonderful performance. The pace demands a little patience, and the ending will make you want to slit your wrists, but all the stuff leading up to it is some really beautiful stuff and definitely worth watching.

–C . Dennis Moore

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