Music Box Films // 2011 // 108 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // November 9th, 2013
"The memories, the grief, and the fear will remain -- and the hard work -- for as long as I live."
The Wall is based on a 1963 book by Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer, her only novel translated into English. Some describe it as a "redefinition of ecofeminist utopian fiction," but that is all a bunch of nonsense which does a disservice. A more apt description is 'the female Robinson Crusoe.' There is no political message in the film; it is the story of a woman in an impossible situation whose will to live supersedes her temptation to give up.
The Wall revolves around a woman imprisoned in the Austrian mountains by an invisible barrier with no apparent way out. Through her journal entries and flashbacks, we see The Woman struggle alone as possibly the last living human being on the planet. With her loyal dog Lynx, a pregnant cow, and a stray cat as her only companions; The Woman writes out of necessity, in order to remain sane in the silent world that is suddenly imposed upon her.
The Wall is a very quiet film that takes it's time to develop. Director Julian Pölsler, who also wrote the film adaptation, didn't feel the need to rush a story of this type by turning it into an action thriller where The Woman is in constant danger. His perfect pacing gives the audience the very real feel of what it must be like to live a solitary existence.
We never know The Woman's name or much about her background; for us her life begins at the time the world apparently comes to an end. What's important is surviving in this new world, not her past, which now seems relatively unimportant, or her name, which is unnecessary. It would be tempting to turn her into some super feminist icon, but her survival isn't dependent on her being a woman, she survives in spite of it. The Woman has an inner strength that anyone, male or female, would need to continue on in such an unsettling situation.
The Wall begins as a vacation getaway to a hunting lodge in the beautiful Austrian forest with The Woman and her cousins. The cousins go into town for supplies and never return. Suddenly The Woman finds out that the place that was to be a short refuge with family has become her prison.
The journal writing helps The Woman put things into perspective; it's a cathartic experience for her, something she says she needs in order not to go mad. Pölsler does a wonderful job of showing us her beginnings in this new world, by using bright colors and natural light, which represents a sense of hope for The Woman that one day she might be rescued. But as the weeks turn into months, then years, Pölsler uses muted grays and low light to show the dreariness that her life has become after having lived in seclusion for so long.
The Wall shows how futile life can become in such a lonely existence, there's a point where The Woman wants to give up, but continues on because of her beloved animals -especially her dog, Lynx. We all need a reason to live, even if it is only for the friendship of a motley group of orphaned creatures. The Woman has a strength that endears her to us; we care about what happens. Part of me hoped she'd survive, but another part wondered if ending it all might be a better fate.
The Wall is a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that highlights Pölsler's use of the color spectrum, and makes for a wonderfully rich viewing experience. The Dolby 5.1 audio balances the guttural German language used during the flashbacks, with the English spoken by The Woman as she recounts her story from her journal. I love how Pölsler only uses the ambient sounds during most of the film, it gave me the feeling that I was in that forest. But he does sprinkle throughout a wonderfully haunting violin score by Uwe Kirbach that adds to the feeling of pure loneliness. Extras include the film's trailer and a full color booklet with photos and essays. This is a beautiful film even though the subject matter isn't particularly uplifting, but we see in full color the human will to survive no matter what the circumstances are.
The Wall isn't a fast-paced action shoot 'em up, it is an introspective film that engulfs you in its bitter-sweet beauty. When it ends, it's hard to stop thinking about this nameless woman, and what becomes of her almost unbearable way of life.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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