The Wall (Die Wand) (12A) | Close-Up Film Review
Dir. Julian Roman Pölsler, Austria/Germany, 2012, 108 mins, in German with subtitles
Cast: Martina Gedeck, Lynx
Review by Colin Dibben
A truly satisfying mix of eerie ‘unexplained nature’ film and tough survivalist drama, with a powerhouse performance from the lead, top-drawer visuals that update Caspar David Friedrich and some nicely essayistic philosophising.
In this highly original exploration of the experience of solitude and survival, a nameless woman (Gedeck – The Baader-Meinhof Complex, The Lives of Others) drives to a cabin in the mountains for a weekend with friends. The older couple go off hunting; when they aren’t back the next morning, the woman goes looking for them, only to find her way out of the alpine valley blocked by an invisible wall.
Over the course of months and years, she must find out how to survive, fend for herself and deal with her new Robinson Crusoe-like existence in her strange environment. She’s completely alone, except for a dog, Lynx, a cow and a cat; Lynx acts as her conduit into a higher communion with the natural world, which in turn gives her a greater understanding of her own human nature.
Martina Gedeck’s physically powerful performance drives the action in this film (her survival depends on restless activity) but her character’s humanity is also dependent on reflection and writing, so the sedentary activity involved in making journal entries also gets screen time.
This is a film about the responsibilities of being human but the concepts and issues (there are references to the ideas of Schelling and Emerson) never overwhelm the strong drama. And there are many beautiful shots of the valley and the meadow above it, shot over several seasons. Pölsler has managed to capture some incredible, nuanced alpine light effects. He is apparently a bit of a nature nut, but what comes across here is the symbiosis between Gedeck, her actions and her increasingly resolute face, and the sublime natural environment.
I was lucky enough to bag an enlightening interview with director and star, which you can read here.