The Wall (NR)

Drama 41 December 31, 1969
By Alan Scherstuhl
The tough-to-Google apocalyptic survival drama The Wall opens with a bit of isolationist daydreaming: A woman, holed up with her dog in a darling cabin in the mountains of Austria, discovers an invisible wall separating her from her nearest neighbors. That wall--impenetrable, never explained-- surrounds miles of peaks and forest from which that woman (Martina Gedeck) now must carve out subsistence. From there, you could guess much of the story. There’s a return to nature and the re-establishing of some kind of community, here made up of animals: the dog, some cats, a beauty of a cow. And there's the hint of a threat out there in those circumscribed woods, which lends a melancholy tension to the many scenes of the woman trudging along, dog trotting beside her. What's surprising is what isn't there: That preternatural will to live that is the birthright of most movie heroes. Instead, the greatest suspense in The Wall isn't how she will survive but why she will bother, which she explains in the film's relentless voiceover. Even if you didn't know this was based on a novel (in this case Marlen Haushofer's), you'd quickly suss it out. Gedeck narrates in full paragraphs, and for all its stellar nature photography, its low hum of suspense, and Gedeck's raw and affecting performance, the film often feels like an illustrated audiobook. The bustling stillness of nature is both the appeal and terror of this scenario, and director Julian Roman Pölsler too rarely has the patience to let us sink into it, to feel the isolation ourselves.
Pham Minh Hoang