From Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone to The Simpsons Movie and Stephen King’s Under the Dome, the notion of an area being impenetrably sealed off from contact with the outside world is a well-worn one, full of rich and easy dramatic veins through which to explore notions of human fallibility and transcendence. Unfortunately, said concept gets a tired workout in writer-director Julian Roman Pölsler’s plodding adaptation of Marlen Haushofer’s eponymous 1962 novel — a German/Austrian import so weighed down by a stereotypically angst-ridden voiceover of emotional numbness and philosophical despair that one could be forgiven for thinking Werner Herzog wrote it as a goof.
Set against a beautiful and at times stark northern Austrian mountain landscape, The Wall tells the tale of a nameless woman (Martina Gedeck) who finds herself suddenly and inexplicably cut off from all human contact when an invisible barrier surrounds the cabin where she’s vacationing. At first her only companion is a loyal dog, Lynx. Later, there’s a cow she comes across and names Bella; later still, a kitten she dubs Pearl. The only people she sees, however, exist frozen in time, outside this bubble. After only a couple rather cursory attempts at breaching the wall, the woman focuses her time on survival (changing weather continues unabated in said space) and channels her psychic energies inward; the film then cuts back and forth in time, as she records in a diary notes from her stay of several years.
Certain critics have praised The Wall as intensely cinematic, but apart from its natural scenery and superb sound design (the wall is given an electromagnetic hum) this could scarcely be further from the truth. Rather than even try to let his audience live, labor and panic alongside Gedeck’s character Pölsler instead ports over or invents large swaths of morose narration marked by maddening equivocations. A typical passage goes like this: “I sometimes think X. (pause) I don’t believe that, though — I just wish it so.”
The result is a movie that feels antsy, uncomfortable in its own skin and, somewhat paradoxically, intellectually manic — a schematic exercise in theory and philosophy, with writ-large Metaphorical Import. It takes place in the wild, but is disconnected from it. For a much more interesting portrait of the unforgiving nature of the wild, consider Herzog’s Happy People: A Year in the Taiga instead. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. In Los Angeles, The Wall opens at the Laemmle Royal, the Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse 7 and the Laemmle Encino Town Center 5. (Music Box Films, unrated, 108 minutes)