The Wall (Die Wand)

The Wall (Die Wand) is an intriguing film that was screened at the Sarasota Film Festival on Saturday April 6th. From the SFF’s own film guide we get this description:

Based on the novel of the same name by Marlen Haushofer, THE WALL follows Martina Gedeck as the nameless protagonist “Woman”. The story unfolds in flashbacks as Woman writes to keep her sanity. It all starts when she is out walking with her friend’s dog Lynx and they both bump into an invisible wall. Every living thing beyond this boundary is eerily frozen and the Woman soon feels like the last human being on Earth. But she isn’t alone, as the affected area includes a range of creatures – the dog, a pregnant cow, a cat, and other animals. Has the world gone mad or has time suddenly stopped.

Directed by Julian Roman Polsler, the above is just one description of the film. Shot high in the forests and alpine meadows in Austria, the film is spectacular to see. If trekking or hiking are your fortes, then this film is something you might want to see.

Encountering the wall for the first time

Encountering the wall for the first time

But you should know that the film lacks characters and lacks dialogue. Aside from Martina Gedeck as Woman, there are only three other actors in the film and the sum total of their screen time is about three minutes. Think of Tom Hanks in Cast Away and you are approaching a comparable film.

Only Hanks was in an airplane crash, and he was rescued, and he returned to civilization. The Wall isn’t so clearly explained. In fact, neither the character, nor the writer, nor the director offer any explanations at all.

The woman is set up in a well stocked small hunting lodge, and then later discovers a cabin much higher up in the mountains. This alpine meadow is actually above the clouds, and as such it is simply in an amazing place.

But if you want a tidy conclusion where everything is explained and accounted for, you won’t find it in this film. Simply the film is an allegory, and it is up to each person to make his own interpretation.

It might be that life is just another version of death. Or that the isolation that many of us experience may or may not be of our own making. Possibly we are being asked to consider that whatever choices we make, it is still another hand that guides us.

The film is not really about spiritual matters that carry a religious significance. More accurately it is about the laws of nature, and that the friendship of mankind and certain members of the animal world can not be quantified, or qualified, beyond the thought that these relationships are indeed priceless.

As the SFF film guide tells us the film works in a series of flashbacks. The woman has no one to talk to, so we hear her thoughts as she has them or as she writes them into an ad hoc journal or diary that she keeps. The seasons change as do the dates, but the woman tells us that she may not be sure of the date or even the day of the week, because there are times when it takes every last bit of energy or intellectual thought processes she can muster just to get out of bed.

She considers suicide but discards the idea. She holds out hope that she will be rescued. Is she already dead, is it a dream, or maybe a drug-induced hallucination. Maybe this is all a manifestation of an overriding mental illness. Maybe this is stylized concept of heaven or even hell.

The reality is that it could be all of the above, or none of the above, and it doesn’t matter. You exit the theater with your own ideas. You simply have to because Polsler doesn’t give you any help at all.

The actress, Martina Gedeck, who plays Woman does a superb job in what is basically a physical role. You’ll watch her struggle conceptually with what has happened to her. You feel her spirits rise and fall, you can read the expressions on her face, and aside from what she says to the dog Lynx – she says nothing else. There’s no one to say it to.

The voice over narration is in English, and that may be just for English-speaking audiences. But who’s voice are we hearing is far less important than what she is saying.

I thought the film was beautiful to see, and the ideas presented are just a small part of the visual canvas that film maker has offered to us for every one to contemplate. He provides no solutions or explanations what so ever. There are no certainties in life, but in this particular case, we can be certain of one thing – what each of us takes from this film is strictly up to us as individuals. There are no right or wrong interpretations of The Wall.

It is simply another experience. So I will put a small label on the experience, and describe it as worthwhile.


4 thoughts on “The Wall (Die Wand)

  1. Thanks for your excellent coverage of the Sarasota Film Festival. The films shown this year certainly seem worthwhile. Your remarks have motivated me to put several movies in my Netflix queue that otherwise I probably would never have known about.

    One quibble. Didn’t Tom Hanks actually discuss his isolation with Wilson, the basketball? Hanks made me believe that Wilson was another real character!

    • Yes Hanks discussed his situation/isolation with Wilson. Small quibble – Wilson was a soccer ball wasn’t he?

      But in The Wall – The Woman tells us everything that she feels and think by means of a voice over narrative as she writes. It’s not quite dialogue. And she talks to Lynx, the dog – and that’s not quite a dialogue either.

  2. I think your review captures the visual beauty and ambiguity of the film. My preference of an allegorical take is that it is a portrayal of social and self-isolation, with the barriers invisible and mysterious, but nonetheless tangible. I have a neighbor who has two dogs, and if she could act she could’ve understudied for the part. See you at the festival next week.

    • Thank you for the comment JLG. My next film to see in person is Dead man’s Burden on Wednesday. At the moment I have a review in progress – I saw Still Mine today. Thanks for your readership.

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