The Wall

Aka Die Wand
Director: Julian Pölsler
Writers: Marlen Haushofer, Julian Pölsler
Stars: Martina Gedeck, Karlheinz Hackl, Ulrike Beimpold

The Wall, the 2012 science fiction film directed by Julian Pölsler, is a film that’s both intriguing and exasperating in equal measure. Intriguing because it starts off so well; exasperating because once this beginning is out of the way it simply meanders for another 90 minutes, conveying very little of the meaning which you suspect it is supposed to convey.

The Wall
The Wall

A woman (Martina Gedeck) goes to spend a holiday in the remote hunting lodge of some elderly friends. While they’re out gathering supplies she has a nap… and when she wakes up her she seems to be cut off from everywhere and everyone by an invisible, humming wall. The people who are outside this wall seem to be either dead or frozen, leaving her as quite possibly the last survivor on earth. So she sets about the business of surviving, accompanied by her loyal dog and a selection of other domestic animals she picks up along the way.

The opening of this is really excellent and impressively disconcerting; even the scenes leading up to the protagonist’s imprisonment have a not-quite-right edge to them, making it difficult to pinpoint when it’s set and what the characters are to each other. In fact, ‘the woman’ seems to be even more alienated and withdrawn into herself before the other people disappear / die (which is, of course, the point, this being an art house movie more concerned with everyday existential angst than narrative). But this also makes her extremely unsympathetic, and as the rest of the lengthy running time is made up of her waffling on about how lonely she is or how wonderful her doggie is it makes for pretty hard viewing. The director seems to sense this, and throws in a lot of impressive scenery to offset the tedium, as well as the occasional inexplicably sinister moment to wake up the audience (these are never developed, though).

It all ends with the arrival of ‘the man’, who – in contrast to ‘the woman’s remarkable ability at farming and hunting (given that she looked like she hadn’t ever picked up a spade in the opening) – has reverted to grimy savagery and killing at random. Because, as everyone knows, men are useless and destructive whereas women get things done and build things; at least in the predictable world of the contemporary European cinema, that is.

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