Introduced by Julie McMorran this weeks Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club showing of Die Wand (2012) is the story of a women who is forced to break with her normal life by means of an inexplicable phenomenon and live a new life in a strange and different world.
Visiting a cabin in the mountains with two friends, this nameless middle aged woman along with her friends dog are left on there own when the couple go off to walk to the nearest village. Following an early night the woman awakens from a deep sleep to discover that her two friends have not returned. After breakfast she sets off to the village to find them. A short way down the road she discovers that a mysterious solid invisible barrier has sprung up cutting her off from the outside world. The story is narrated as the woman writes her 'report' on the limited amount of paper she has available. The appearance of the invisible force field is never explained but would at first appear to be an allegory for separation and the will to survive. This landlocked female has only the dog, two cats and some farm animals for company. Devoting herself to her animals especially Lynx the dog (who belongs to the director) she makes a conscious decision to survive.
Directed and adapted from Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer’s novel of the same name by Julian Roman Polsler, a man better known for helming TV movies rather than feature films. He first read the book 25 years ago but did not gain the film rights until 18 years latter. First written in 1963 but not published until two years before her death in 1968 from bone cancer, Haushofer’s dystopian novel did not become a best seller until the 80’s some ten years after her death.
Portraying a strong Germanic female goes back even beyond Leni Riefenstahl and Polsler successfully continues this trait by casting the powerful presence of Martina Gedeck in the role of the woman and even with no human presence to interact with, proves her worth as an actress. Her credits have included some very well known award winning German films including The Lives of Others (2006) and The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008).
This powerful film was shot in the very photogenic Gosau region of Upper Austria over a long 14-month period by nine of Austria's most accomplished cinematographers including Martin Gschlacht (Lourdes 2010 Ravanche 2008) and Christian Berger (The White Ribbon 2009)
The discussion following the screening debated two main points, the theory about the human animal bond and how good this is for the health of the human as well as the dog, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The second point of discussion was the Film Clubs analysis of the film, which did vary. The book is said to voice the nuclear anxieties of the sixties but survival and loneliness where two of the interpretations as was the author’s metal state. Allegedly whist writing the book she was said to be dissatisfied with life and suffering from serious depression, the eminent psychiatrist Paulas Hochgatterer said that the book ‘is a precise description of clinical depression’.
This minimalist film where almost nothing happens, has been accused of being a feminist statement, ‘because the fact that the characters a woman plays an important role. It’s no coincidence that all male energy is snuffed out: the dog, the man and the bull all die, while the woman, the cat and the cow survive’ By the end of the film she has not so much become androgynous, as transcending sexual identity, is this feminism? Perhaps a little long but that does not alter the fact that this film is an exceptional piece’s of work both from the leading lady and the director. Not quite up to Tarkovsky’s masterpiece Stalker (1979) but like that film it is stark, emotionally gripping and transcends loneliness.
The question I think the film raises is how much do we really need human contact?