We Are All Basically Alone

Julian Roman Pölsler’s imposing film adaptation of Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall (Die Wand): a quiet masterpiece of natural space and inner discovery showing in Vienna and at Berlinale 2013

Martina Gedeck

Martina Gedeck stars as the urbanite isolated in the Gosau Valley wilderness. She begins to live with the surrounding nature | Photo: Die Wand

“Today, November the 5th, I will begin my report.” A woman sits in one room of a small wooden hunting lodge, writing by the dim light of a candle. “…not because writing gives me pleasure, but because I realised that I must write, so I will not lose my mind. I am completely alone, and I must try and survive the dark and cold months ahead of me.”

Caged in a corner of the Salzkammergut in Upper Austria, she is unable to leave because of an invisible wall that separates her from the rest of the world. The outside seems strangely calm and empty, as if a catastrophe had taken place and drained away all life. Being alone she feels miserable, but then gradually, she accepts her fate.

Marlen Haushofers novel The Wall (Die Wand) was a huge success when it was first published in 1968; translated into 19 languages, it had a finger on the pulse of the time, when anti-capitalistic sentiments and fear of nuclear disasters dominated public discourse. It was never filmed, though, considered too difficult to adapt for the screen. Nevertheless, in 2003 director Julian Roman Pölsler secured the film rights aware of the difficulties, he took his time. The filming process lasted over three years, and the Gosau Valley (Gosau Tal) in the Salzkammergut, with its picturesque mountain landscapes and its mild summers, colourful, misty autumns and harsh winters provided the intense imagery for the story.

 

Settling into solitude

Starring Martina Gedeck, the film tells the story of a displaced city dweller in the process of transformation. A pampered urbanite when she arrives at the hut for a weekend with friends, she wakes to find everybody is gone. There is no note. The only living creatures left are the couple’s dog, Luchs, and a cow she names Bella. Forced to learn all skills necessary to survive on her own, she gives up trying to find a way past the wall, steadily growing into, finally becoming a part of the unspoiled nature that frightens her but nurtures her at the same time.

However difficult the adaptation of a classic piece of literature, Pölsler manages to translate the cryptic plot into pictures. The film deliberately focuses on the sole narrative voice of Martina Gedeck in order to transport as much of the original text as possible, leaving the audience to evolve its own interpretation. The strong images in almost every scene are extremely compelling: The nameless woman ascending to a mountain pasture in summer, as if she trying to recover from the hardships of making a living. The entrance of a man, the only human trapped inside the wall besides her, pointlessly killing her animals – a reference perhaps, to the feminist criticism of the destructive male.

Whether The Wall is seen as an analogy to feeling outcast in a solipsistic society, a fundamental criticism of individualism, or just as a realistic story of a woman discovering a new angle to viewing her own existence, the disturbing reality, the voice of Gedeck and the restrained sound of the film are what linger in the mind. The viewer is left thinking about his own life and the inevitable walls that surround it.

“The crows are circling over the forest, screaming continuously,” she muses to herself near the end. “When they are gone, I will go out to the glade and feed the white crow. She is already waiting for me.”

Selected screenings below. For full details, visit the Falter at www.falter.at

Daily until 1 Nov., 15:15, 18:15, 20:30
Cine Center
1., Fleischmarkt 6
(01) 533 24 11
www.cinecenter.at

Daily until 28 Oct. & 1 Nov., 13:45, 18:30, 21:00
29-31 Oct., 18:30, 21;00
Kino De France
1., Schottenring 5
(01) 317 52 36
 www.votivkino.at

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