Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Wall

Julian Pölsler's adaptation of Marlen Haushofer's novel "The Wall" is a thuddingly literal fable about a woman alone in nature. The unnamed woman (played by Martina Gedeck of "The Lives of Others") drives with a friend and his girlfriend to a hunting lodge in the Austrian mountains. They go into the village and she stays behind with her friend's beloved dog Lynx. When she takes Lynx for a trail walk the next morning, he runs ahead of her and comes back puling and licking his ear. She soon discovers why. He has walked into an invisible and insuperable wall. She does the same. She puts her hands up to it. It makes a faint sound of reverberation. It is cold to the touch. She will never reach the other side.
The wall encloses her, but leaves her thousands of acres of lush forest and hayfields. Besides the lodge, there is a hilltop cottage from which she can see down into the valley. An old man stands outside a house she observes through the wall, frozen in time, well water pouring forever through his hands. His wife sits motionless on their front porch. They cannot hear the woman call out to them. They are surely dead. Perhaps everyone is.
Is this an interesting premise? I suppose it could be. It does beg a number of questions the movie doesn't bother to address (like, oh, say, making a phone call?). The truth is, we don't really need the wall to get to a woman alone in nature (compare how well John Sayles showed the dominance of nature over man in 1999's great "Limbo"). And the film's few insights into the human condition get lost in an endless voice-over that's annoying and full of mixed metaphors. Finally, an unpleasant late scene in which both Lynx and a young bull die cheats the rules and cheapens all that's come before.

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