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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.14.13] Germany drama fantasy



Imagine you wake up one morning to find yourself alone in the world. No warning, no explanation but while out on a walk you discover an invisible wall blocking your path. For the first days you wonder around, looking for a way out and when it doesn't look like an exit will materialize, you fall into depression. You wait patiently for rescue but how long do you wait? Days? Weeks? Maybe months? And what do you do when it appears that rescue isn't coming? Do you lie down and let yourself die or do you fight to survive?

Julian Polsler purchased the rights to Marlen Haushofer's novel "The Wall" several years ago but the process of adapting such a seminal and difficult work hasn't been easy and it's taken seven years to bring The Wall to the screen but the result is spectacular; a gorgeous, haunting and energizing story of a woman struggling with nature and herself to stay alive. Shot over a period of 14 months, the film unfolds as an unnamed woman shares the events that have led to her current situation; she's alone in a cabin in the middle of a forest. She recalls the first days of being alone, of trying to understand what happened on the outside, how she finally made the decision that she wanted to survive long enough to be rescued, how eventually the idea of rescue withdrew from her mind, replaced by the simple need to live and provide for her animals and how eventually just living for the newness of tomorrow became her driving force.


With no one to exchange dialog with, the story of the woman is told through a mix of flashbacks, voiceover and silence to haunting result. In a just world Martina Gedeck, best known to international audiences for great performances in The Lives of Others and The Baader Meinhof Complex, would win every acting award under the stars. She's brilliant here, quietly traversing the emotional landscape from sadness to joy and the pain and suffering she endures is etched in every feature, in her eyes and even in the way she sits and walks. Over a period of time, she's visibly more in touch with herself, she walks with more confidence and purpose and when she's at rest, she seems completely at peace with herself. They're subtle changes but with little distraction from other characters or busy surroundings and story, the slight changes are very apparent.

Between Gedeck's performance and Polsler's scipt, The Wall mines a vast array of emotional, psychological and existential depths and questions everything from what drives survival to what makes us human and humans "better" than animals. What's surprising is the emotional force that the movie strikes with and I didn't realize how involved I was with the story until a tense moment late in the film, a moment so powerful that thinking about it now makes me uncomfortable. I had such an intense reaction to the scene that I want to erase it from my mind and forget the pain it caused me and it makes me wonder about the pain it caused the woman and the pain that we all go through that alters who we are. These are the sort of thoughts the float around after the credits roll but while watching the movie, the only thing on my mind was the next scene. What will she do next? What new challenge will she face and how will she overcome it? It's completely immersive from beginning to end.

Shot by a number of different cinematographers, The Wall is striking in it's beauty and the way it captures the world within the wall as both constraining and liberating, serene and troubled. The seasons are their own characters as are the animals that come through the story and each of them change the woman and her motivation and in the end it's clear that she may be alone but she's not really lonely. She's at peace with herself and with what has happened to her and ready to face the next challenge because there's always a next challenge. At it's core, The Wall is a tale not only of self discovery and survival but of hope, a story that reveals the failure, the darkest and hardest moments of life and then shows that there's light at the end of it all.

The Wall is currently playing in New York and LA. For a full listing of theatres visit Music Box Films.

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filmfreak (7 years ago) Reply

A small but very stunning movie

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projectcyclops (7 years ago) Reply

Great review, really looking forward to seeing this now.


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