The Wall* Review

Film Still
  • The Wall film still


This rustic, moving sci-fi yarn isn't afraid to grapple with some of the Big Questions.

The smallest films often tell the biggest stories. And it’s sometimes the quietest stories that make the deepest impression. Contained and restrained, Julian Pölsler’s adaptation of Austrian author Marlen Haushofer’s 1963 feminist existential mindbender, 'Die Wand', is one such experience: one that is still, uncommon and microscopically introspective yet throbbing with life and animated by deep undercurrents of universality.

Martina Gedeck — known as the romantic foil in The Lives Of Others — plays an unnamed middle-aged woman holidaying with two friends at a remote cabin in the mountains. We infer that she is sad, troubled, distant at the very least. When her friends go into the local village, she stays behind with only their dog for company.

When her friends fail to return by morning, our heroine starts for town but finds her way blocked by an invisible force field — an entirely clear wall that envelops her cabin and the countryside around it. Not only that, but the world beyond the wall seems to have been frozen in time, meaning no curious yokels are likely to come by with the offer of explanation or rescue. Apart from her dog and the beasts of the field, she is quite alone.

This is all told in flashback, from a couple of years — or more precisely seasons — in the future. The woman recounts her battle with this bizarre predicament, the elements, the harsh new practicalities of daily life and ultimately her own sanity as she faces up to a life to be lived in complete isolation.

Like a space odyssey into the heart of what life itself means, her existence is altered in strange, unforeseeable ways. The passing of a summer, the birth of a calf, the stockpiling of wood for winter all take on a meaning and significance that could hardly have been fathomed in her previous life. She is a Crusoe marooned by more than mere distance. The lines have fallen off the map, and the clock’s bust too.

As with John Hillcoat’s Cormac McCarthy adaptation, The Road, or Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy And Lucy, The Wall might not suit every taste. The pace is often glacial and the everyday drudge is portrayed in minute detail. It is also mesmerising, beguiling, elegantly shot and — but for one ill-judged narrative flare-up near the end — a coolly rendered and subtle meditation on what life is and what life is for.

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