Starring: Martina Gedeck, Wolfgang M. Bauer, Ulrike Beimpold, Karlheinz Hackl
Plot: Up in the Austrian mountains, away on a short holiday, Frau (Gedeck) finds herself trapped in an invisible fortress of unseen walls. As she realises that there is no escape, she strives to survive with only the company of a dog, a cat and cow.
The picturesque landscapes beautifully captured by the cinematographers serve to highlight the Walden/Thoreau-esque aspect of this story, whilst also illuminating the fantastical side of it. Much of The Wall appears transcendent beyond comprehension and cleverly draws upon the uncanny nature of the film; many will note a Kafka-type plot revolving around unexplained happenings and the introspective narration of the lead character. Despite the complex readings that can and will come out of seeing The Wall, it never seems overly complicated in its mode of address, nor does it tire you from the exploration of the human psyche and the subject of nature.
Bookended with the protagonist chronicling her time trapped within an imperceptible bubble, there are indications as to how long Frau has spent isolated in the mountains. In this regard, the story has a straight and simple direction that enables you to work through sequences of drama or solemnity knowing they are intrinsic to the narrative. In an odd way, the story also appears believable – or at least Frau’s reaction to it is – which garners your attention. For instance, her approach to hunting is based on necessity rather than animalistic instinct which is articulated throughout the script. Every movement and every idea is never brushed over and even though this sounds banal, it fits into the pensive manner of the film impeccably.
The strange sci-fi idea of a possible giant glass wall barricading you into a closed space is interesting but not what this film is about. Posler’s screenplay delves deep into the issue of survival and duty – how to maintain a point in your life where structure and society disappear and how to care for those that may need you (like her adopted pets: Lynx the dog, a cat and a cow). The existential tone of the film may bore some, and in one or two moments it can drag, yet the writing is poetic and honest enough to maintain your concentration.
Gedeck in the main role is fantastic; subtly showing the alterations in a person once things drastically change. Though she shows little change in appearance (hair shortened and skin darkened by the sun) her disposition gradually alters throughout to credibly create a heroine. From the timidity seen in the first act, and her caution around Lynx, great strides are taken in her performance to form a different persona. Her bond with Lynx is so profound by the end - noted by the pair’s interaction and the soliloquies about the hound – that their journey together is lovingly followed by the audience.
The first two acts that magnify the evolution of Frau are stimulating pieces of cinema. It is only the last 20 minutes that may displease viewers who are given a brash new revelation and striking tonal shift all of which appears awkwardly rushed in light on the rest. In any other hands, in or any other country, this material could be treated with gross misconduct (a Hollywood remark would inevitably strip every piece of intellect from it) yet the Austrian tact for philosophy and psychology helps create The Wall as a smart and memorable film.
****By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms