London Film Festival 2012: The Wall Review

Rating: A glib work of German miserablism, this adaptation of Marlen Haushofer’s 1960s best-selling novel is a visually lush but overly sparse…

Shaun Munro

Contributor

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A glib work of German miserablism, this adaptation of Marlen Haushofer’s 1960s best-selling novel is a visually lush but overly sparse drama, in which Martina Gedeck plays a woman who finds herself trapped by an invisible force in an isolated area of the Austrian mountains.

The inevitability of this one-person show is that director Julian Pölsler feels obliged to provide perfunctory, needless narration alongside Gedeck’s performance in order to spell out every tiny detail of her quandary, as if we cannot see it for ourselves (this is hardly Transformers now, is it?). Rather than convey the protagonist’s consideration of suicide through interesting visuals, it’s all told to us with the utmost banality, the quietly sinister tone, ravishing cinematography and imposing sound design being about the only things that remain interesting throughout.

What will keep audiences most intrigued is the central gimmick, which traps its character inside a field that essentially resembles an invisible – and seemingly indestructible – pane of glass. In some circles it might best be interpreted as an absurdist comedy rather than an existential drama, what with the elaborate means through which Gedeck’s character attempts to escape the wall. However, the clumsy inertia with which Pölsler paces and pitches his film betrays both tones; it’s a punishing experience that only begins to touch on our mastery of nature – or lack thereof in contemporary society – and the inherent cruelty that goes alongside it. Though some final scenes prove the most dramatically engaging, its inconclusiveness – expected though it is – seals the whole nihilistic deal.

Introspective but rarely cerebral, The Wall is too frustratingly obtuse despite boasting a solid central performance and lush visuals.