Has anyone else see “The Wall” (Die Wand, 2012)?

8 February 2014

Important: can you explain it to me?

diewand glasI ought to feel bewitched by this beautiful and haunting film — the debut by Julian Roman Pölsler — but I also feel annoyed, as if it circles around a metaphor or a broader statement about something that I can’t figure out. Please help.

The Wall is basically a one-woman show (streaming on Netflix right now) about a woman (Martina Gedeck) whose friends invite her to stay in their hunting cabin one summer next to a breathtaking Austrian lake, surrounded by spectacular peaks. But when she wakes up the next day, she finds that an invisible wall surrounds her, separating her from every other human being, including them.

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Her story of survival goes beyond being remarkable — what would you do if you found yourself without any access to human contact? The film reminds you of the skills you probably don’t have: the ability to milk a cow, gut a deer, mow a field of hay using only a scythe, help the cow give birth. I’m not sure it’s possible to watch this film without getting a little survivalist yourself: must watch YouTube for advice on how to help cows in labor, just in case.

All of this combines a great atmosphere of dread/horror with science fiction (where did the wall come from?) and her heavily narrated tale of psychological transformation. But what does it mean, in the end?

07I’m also sorry to say that huge narrative gaps. I understand the impulse to survive, but why isn’t she more interested in the metaphysical questions? Is this woman’s tale of survival intended to have a feminist edge — and if so, why can’t I find it, what with my nerve endings constantly attuned to such things? Why doesn’t she just keep the sweet little white kitty inside the house? Why do I just not buy the sudden arrival of a [identifying information withheld] later in the film?

Please tell me you’ve seen it and have ideas about What It All Means. Surely there’s something I’ve missed. I want to like this film but find myself oddly annoyed at the cloaked significance and narrative leaps.

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9 Responses to “Has anyone else see “The Wall” (Die Wand, 2012)?”


  1. I’ve heard of the book it’s based on thanks to another blogger. Thanks for mentioning the movie, not sure I could provide an answer. Heavily narrated movies already are a high risk of being boring

    • Didion Says:

      It is very heavily narrated. I didn’t have a problem with this (because, me love words words words) but it does gluck things up a bit. I noticed that it was based on a novel … maybe I’ll go in search of reviews of that to see if I can find the deeper meaning I needed for the film.

      Argh! I’m oddly irked by this film.


  2. I can handle a fair amount of narration, if you see enough French movies you get used to it :) I found the post that mentions the book not sure if that helps with that feeling at all! I always think it a good thing when a movie gets to you whether it’s good or bad.

    http://lovesexandotherdirtywords.com/2013/11/30/the-wall-by-marlen-haushofer/

  3. JustMeMike Says:

    Didion – I saw the film 10 months ago and did a review of it.

    The thing about this is that this is not narration in the usual sense where we have characters and situations. This woman is basically the only character with a few other people that are involved and appear early and late but not for very long.

    The woman isn’t narrating to explain, or to comment – she has no one to talk to as the cats and dogs and other animals do not reply. So the narration is more of her thoughts – just as we think of things as we walk or drive – we make mental notes, we ask ourselves questions, and we wonder about things.

    You are right to ask – but the reality is that the design of the film is to provide NO ANSWERS AT ALL.

    Here is how I closed my review:

    I thought the film was beautiful to see, and the ideas presented are just a small part of the visual canvas that the film maker has offered to us for every one to contemplate. He provides no solutions or explanations what so ever. There are no certainties in life, but in this particular case, we can be certain of one thing – what each of us takes from this film is strictly up to us as individuals. There are no right or wrong interpretations of The Wall.

    It is simply another experience. So I will put a small label on the experience, and describe it as worthwhile.

    For those of you who may want to see my full review, and some more images from the film, here is the link:

    http://jmmnewaov2.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/the-wall-die-wand/

    • Didion Says:

      In my own defense, JMM, I purposely skipped reading some of your reviews at the time for fear that I’d spoil my own experience of those film-festival films when I saw them later. But clearly I neglected to return once I finally had a chance to see them!

      Your comment about the director providing “no solutions or explanations” seems exactly right — and perhaps that’s what I found so aggravating. That is, although I can perfectly appreciate a good unsolved mystery, I want a film to take me someplace meaningful. This film was such a strange combination of false enforced order — an invisible wall around her, separating her from other people — and the terror of being placed into the ordinary chaos of the nature that surrounds her. But what are we to learn from that odd juxtaposition that we haven’t seen in so many other films about humans who immerse themselves in nature (Into the Wild, Grizzly Man)?

      One more quick note, besides the fact that JMM’s review is worth reading his more patient assessment of the film and its great images: I truly feel haunted by the beauty of this film. Sure, it gets under my skin for what it doesn’t do; but this is a captivating tale.


  4. Sorry this is going to be long – Fanny/izblue tweeted the link and so here I am :)

    I read the book last year and saw the movie on Netflix late last month. I’m glad that I had read the book before seeing the movie, because the movie certainly is loyal to the book, not deviating from hardly anything at all to fit some Hollywood mold.

    And I think because it doesn’t fit into the 3-act model of most Hollywood films, it can leave anyone not familiar with the book with more questions than answers.

    The unnamed protagonist (I don’t even think they gave her a name in the movie either) is writing her account of her ‘imprisonment’ of sorts from inside the wall, and so the narration is basically what she’s written in all those papers she’s found in the hunting lodge. So to whoever finds it, if anyone else is still alive, it would be her account of what happened to her from the day the wall came out of nowhere to that day in October (or whatever day the final entry was written, where she ends it with the “white crow will be waiting for me.”

    One of the things that struck me in the book is her statement about whether she would need a man at all to survive. Once or twice I think she says this (and for the life of me, I cannot remember right now if she states it in the movie), and she always came to the conclusion that she was better off alone. I think I wrote about it on my blog as well.

    The novel was published in 1968 and I think it’s been called an eco-feminist dystopian novel. In my view, the word “feminist” especially reflects the way she deals with possibly the only other human survivor within the wall, especially in relation to her earlier conclusions about being better off alone. What’s interesting about the movie is that they kept the original narrative of the Haushofer’s novel – in one way I especially love, and in another, if I hadn’t read the book first, would probably have left me wondering what the plot is all about.

    • Didion Says:

      Thank you so much, MorrighansMuse! Clearly I should have read the novel. I did some quick Google research late last night and found things like Doris Lessing’s full-throated recommendation of the novel from the 1960s, identifying its strong feminist themes. I’m not sure that comes through in the film, nor really the endorsement of a solitary life. Somehow, knowing the original novel was written & published during the 1960s helps me a bit.

      I think one of the things I want to know more about is whether the novel gets at her attempts to understand why she has been protected by the wall — why is she chosen? who put the wall there? why was it necessary that only she be selected? — or, as in the film, does the protagonist gloss over that question and focus on survival?

      Many thanks again for your help here.


      • I wanted to know the answers to those same questions as well. I kept waiting for plot points and resolutions as I read but realized later on that it was as if we had com upon the cabin one day in the future, and found her account.

        It was interesting to see that being in her situation, would we ask ourselves those questions about the wall and how to get out of it, or would we do as she did, stick to a routine to get her going, ask the questions about her solitary situation, to which the answers we read are ultimately her own (but just might resonate with us, too) and not dwell too much on the things she cannot control, but work on the ones that she could.

  5. Hattie Says:

    I’ll watch it tonight.


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