Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Die Wand (The Wall) (12) | Film Review

Die Wand (The Wall), dir/wr. Julian Pölsler, based on Die Wand by Marlen Haushofer, st. Martina Gedeck

Deep within the Austrian Alps, a woman (Gedeck) and her two friends arrive at a hunting lodge. For her friends it seems like an idyllic retreat, for the silent, nameless woman, stoic and sober, it seems more like an escape or maybe a convalescence. When her friends head out to a neighbouring village that very first evening, she declines the walk, choosing instead to stay at the lodge with their dog Lynx. In the morning, she wakes up alone. The unmade beds reveal her friends never returned back to the lodge, and on further investigation, down the rough track they had previously driven up, she encounters an invisible wall blocking her path, humming and vibrating on interaction. What follows is a narration-led survivalist tale as she struggles to adjust to her new circumstances in isolation. In many ways Pölsner's film is dramatically sparse. The Woman's contemplative quietness established at the start neither unravels into full-on panic at the extent of her imprisonment, nor does it accelerate into joyous montage of renewed endurance as many sole-survivor movies have before. Rather she knuckles down, harvests the land and begrudgingly learns how to use a rifle, all the while her faithful dog by her side. The relentlessness of life is all around her. Tall pines and flowing streams, the buzzing of insects, screech of birds, bray of deer - the sound design is a marvel of fecundity. One may also suspect it is no coincidence that the wandering cow she finds on the pasture and the cat that seeks shelter from a storm in her lodge both end up bearing offspring. The narration that punctuates the earthy soundscape is from further down the line - maybe years - as a close-cropped version of The Woman reveals she has been logging her experience. The action flits back and forth between these two timelines, the latter's grey and dusky colour palette contrasting vividly with the former's saturated Alpinic vistas. The Wall may be economic with its conventional storytelling, but the frame is bursting with shimmering imagery concerning nature's indifference to human plight or even fantastical, unexplained phenomena. It's a brilliant, strange, and sombre film, one that revels in its own capacity to sell the mournful wretchedness of enforced exile, but it's surprisingly poignant and Gedeck gives a heartrending portrayal of a woman quarantined in paradise.