Die Wand (The Wall)

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“Alone again… Unnaturally…”

diewand4This is a very different kind of GWG film: indeed, it could almost be called an inaction heroine movie. It starts from a very simple presence. A woman (Gedeck) wakes up in a cabin in the Austrian Alps. When she tried to head to a nearby village, the path is blocked by an unseen, impenetrable barrier that has sprung up overnight, and now defines the boundary of her world. Everyone outside is dead. What do you do? How do you survive, both short- and long-term? Could you handle the loneliness? Can you retain your humanity, when you are, apparently, the only human being left?

These are the questions which this film is interested in asking – much more so than prosaic ones, such as “Who put the wall there?” or “Can you maybe dig under it?” If you’re looking for a definitive resolution, go elsewhere too, because the film simply ends when the woman has to give up keeping her journal, because the supply of paper has run out. I suppose, technically, that’s a spoiler, but this is a film where it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the road which takes you there. And you’d better be able to handle a lot of voiceover, because there’s almost nothing else here. Normally, I regard voiceovers as a cinematic cop-out, for when you can’t be bothered to write dialogue or action; but, considering the heroine is virtually the only person you see over the course of the film, they’re basically essential here, and even in subtitles, have a poetic quality that is generally effective.

Admittedly, for long stretches, there’s nothing of significance going on, and if you’re not in the mood for some (very picturesque) navel-gazing, the lack of activity could become aggravating. However, I can’t say I was ever bored at all, and I’m quite surprised by that, since I am more likely to be seen tapping my foot impatiently, if ten minutes go by without a giant fireball. The cinematography, combined with the Alpine scenery, is quite luscious, and so even during the quieter moments – okay, quieter half-hours – this remains a visual treat. Gedeck’s performance is full of quiet strength; she simply gets on with the business of everyday survival, despite the bizarre twist life has taken. I suspect I wouldn’t handle the same situation anywhere near as well as her character does, and It’s that inner depth of fortitude, which makes it fit in here, despite the low-key nature of the content.

This is not the kind of film which necessarily creates any immediate impression. It finishes, in the same laid-back manner as the previous 105 minutes have unfolded. But over the days which followed, I found myself thinking about the questions it raised, and how my answers differed from the heroine’s, or where they overlapped. This lasting impact is one of the things which is generally the mark of a good film; it stays with you, when more ephemeral pleasures have been forgotten. While entirely devoid of pyrotechnics, this is still one which I’ll probably want to revisit and chew over again.

Dir: Julian Pölsler
Star: Martina Gedeck

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