( Julian Pölsler, 2012) from a Marlen Haushofer novel (1963), is the second European art film this year that I'd never heard of that proved better than most of the other films I've been anticipating.
It's the sort of film that couldn't have been made 10-15 years ago because the VFX (which comprise about 10 minutes of screen time total) needed to sell the premise weren't available to little films like this. And I appreciate the thoughtful minimalism with which this film takes what was but one element of the idea in a film like The Cabin In The Woods
-- an invisible, impenetrable wall around an isolated vacation property -- and makes it the centerpiece of the entire narrative.
Imagine if the sort of lonely apocalypse that usually gets to happen to outgoing men of action instead fell upon an introspective, intellectual woman. I Am Legend
staring Marguerite Duras instead of Will Smith. Set in the Alps instead of NYC, where it's not the absence of others that haunts so much as the timeless indifference of nature.
The film's real agenda is twofold, a kind of immersion in the practical mundane everyday mechanics of survival -- wood gathering, subsistence farming, animal husbandry -- and the charting of the nameless protagonist's interior journey toward the gradual acceptance of her condition and place in a world that's been forever altered for reasons beyond her control or comprehension.
It's a compendium of classic existentialist obsessions, with the meaninglessness and ultimate (in this case literal) loneliness/aloneness, the contemplation of suicide, with one's thrown-ness into being (and into her mysterious present situation), with the active choice of living in spite of this, of ennobling oneself through work. It's very much a matter of: "She can't go on, she'll go on." You could do a lot worse than screening this film for your students on the first day of "Intro to Existentialism."
An aura of technological breakdown and nuclear dread* hangs over The Wall
. The novel/film seems influenced by Kafka, Beckett, Bergman, Robinson Crusoe
and possibly even Earth Abides
and The Twilight Zone
. And it anticipates later work like The Sacrifice
, The Turin Horse
, The Concrete Island
, Doomsday Preppers
and especially Under the Dome
. You might even say this is the minimalist forerunner of Stephen King's maximalist novel/miniseries.
In the end, the film relies a bit too much on voiceover, which is so deadpan Germanic that my companion remarked that it reminded her of Werner Herzog (sans the humor). It's also overlong and might have been cut down by 20-30 minutes and benefited from the ruthless economy of a director like Bresson or Haneke (who already made his apocalypse movie). But all things considered, The Wall
is still very good, certainly better than the below the radar arthouse dumping it's getting in the U.S. Definitely worth a look.
Just what exactly happened to those other people just outside the wall? The protagonist strongly asserts that she knows they are dead. And later that the human race has failed. Yet they seem frozen, stuck in a moment as if the DVR of existence had been paused. Of course, in 1963, this would be a pretty potent metaphor for the last living moment before the bombs went off.