Saturday, February 18, 2012

Film Wish List: THE WALL (2012, Julian Roman Poelsler, Austria)


The cawing of the crows breaks through the biting cold whilst, inside a bare hunting cabin, a woman (Martina Gedeck) forces her words into tight narrow lines on her last sheet of paper. Her fingernails are filthy from all the work. The expression on her face mirrors her fate. This woman is not writing her story out of pleasure, this woman is writing to save herself from losing her mind.

The rays of sunlight on a beautiful day in May evoke her memories. With her friends Hugo and Luise and their dog Luchs, she drives through the stunning landscape of the Austrian mountains to their lodge for a weekend getaway. The couple sets off that evening on a short hike to the village to catch some of the excellent fresh air. They promise to return before dawn. The woman and the dog remain behind, sitting on the rustically romantic wooden porch. She appears out of place in her urban clothes. This is not her world.

The next morning, the couple has not yet returned. The woman wonders what might have happened. Her friends would never have been so inconsiderate as to leave her in the hut alone overnight. She decides to go and look for them, setting off in her city shoes with Luchs down the stony path to the valley. Suddenly the dog begins to howl and stops walking. The woman hits against an invisible wall. Bewildered, her hands move through the air touching the inexplicable barrier that separates her from the rest of the world. The blue sky and the nature around her seem as normal as always. The birds are chirping as if nothing has happened. She hears a loud thumping but then realizes it’s coming from inside her. Her heart is gripped with fear long before she even realizes it. What has happened? Surely someone must have sounded the alarm by now. Even more puzzling than this wall: There is not a single person in sight.

She is convinced that she will not be able to survive. And yet she knows that she must survive; there’s no way out for her. The second time the woman sets off to explore the area bounded by this wall, she is better equipped: Through her binoculars she can see the people in the neighboring hut, frozen in mid-motion as if turned to stone. A swift death must have caught them by surprise. Perhaps it would have been wiser had she gone with her friends into the village.

With time the woman manages to come to terms with her new surroundings. She finds a cow, which she names Bella. She plants potatoes, goes hunting, survives the winter. In the summer she moves to a nearby alpine hut and, inspired by the fascinating mountain scenery, she falls into the delicate experience of connecting with herself. The thought of someone ever finding her no longer haunts her, she realizes.

But one day, the time comes and she is found. But not as she had expected. This meeting changes her life a second time and, in her own way, she resolves the questions that will never let her go.

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