The Wall (German: Die Wand) is a 2012 Austrian-German drama film written and directed by Julian Pölsler and starring Martina Gedeck. Based on the 1963 novel Die Wand by Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer and adapted for the screen by Julian Pölsler, the film is about a woman who visits with friends at their hunting lodge in the Austrian Alps.
Left alone while her friends walk to a nearby village, the woman soon discovers she is cut off from all human contact by a mysterious invisible wall that surrounds the isolated countryside where she is staying.
With her friends’ loyal dog Lynx as her companion, she soon encounters an elemental world ruled by nature’s laws, and spends the next three years living in isolation looking after her animals and trying to survive.
It has been a while since I came across a movie that I would choose to describe as profound, but Julian Pölsler‘s deft adaptation of Marlen Haushofer‘s 1963 novel The Wall (Die Wand) rises to earn that accolade.
While a visually beautiful movie, the story does move at a glacial pace, a word I use deliberately not as a criticism because this also applies to the film’s slowly building, inexorable emotional force for those with the patience to withstand it.
It is, as well, deeply philosophical, weaving in themes of humanity’s relationship with nature, with animals, indirectly with civilization (by way of said’s absence), and most eminently with the terror and majesty of our own relationship with an uncaring universe that was Friedrich Nietzsche‘s own famous obsession.
Marlen Haushofer’s story represents a rare example of pure Science Fiction, meaning she changes one scientifically unknown thing – in this case, the instance of the mysterious, invisible Wall – and then lets everything else follow naturally and correctly from that. Some have described it as dystopian as well, though I think I would argue it to be instead deeply existentialist.
If there is one flaw to both book and movie, I would suggest it is that so much information about the protagonist’s past has been deliberately scrubbed from the work – we never even learn her name – that it was difficult for me to relate or care about the protagonist until quite late in the story, something that the film’s deliberate pacing does exacerbate.
Obviously, I understand why Haushofer chose to do this, but I do think a few more ties to what her protagonist has lost would not have irreparably damaged her “Everywoman” aspect.
This is a film that could never have been made by the mainstream film industry; it encompasses a tremendous amount of introspective ruminative narrative, features a single actress who is definitely not in her 20s, and does not fit cleanly into any commonly expected genre (though as noted above, I believe it to be most accurately defined as “pure SF”).
It is, as well, a rare, profoundly powerful examination of the themes of isolation, despair, love, loneliness, and hope. Deep stuff.
Five out of five severed zombie heads.