The Wall – Die Wand (2012) World Cinema Series – Austria

Die Wand

Reading Marlen Haushofer’s Die WandThe Wall was one of the most profound reading experiences I’ve ever had. Weeks after I finished it I was still haunted by the story and urged everyone to read it as well. Over ten  years later the book is still in my mind as if I’ve read it yesterday. The story of a woman who is invited to a lodge in the Austrian forest and finds herself cut off from the world by an invisible wall made an incredible impression on me.

At the beginning of the story the narrator’s friends go back to the village just after their arrival. When they do not return, she goes to bed. When she wakes she expects to find them but they have not returned. She decides to walk to the village and find out what has happened. On the way she dashes into an invisible wall. She will find out later that the wall forms a circle around her and a relatively large forest and mountain area. The few people she sees outside of the wall look frozen in time. Obviously they are dead.

It is immediately clear to her that there is no escaping her condition and that, with the exception of a few animals – a dog, a cow and a cat – , she is completely alone. At first this is so overwhelming, that she thinks of killing herself but then, feeling responsible for the animals, she pulls herself together. After a time of adjusting, learning to survive, hunting, gathering and planting, she becomes self-sufficient. She even loves to be alone with her animals and so close to nature. She becomes one with the nature around her.

One day she feels that something is wrong. At first it’s just a hunch, then she finds signs. She might not be alone after all.

Marlen Haushofer did an amazing job at showing us that being alone may not be the worst. The end of the book is harrowing.

When I saw that The Wall has been made into a movie, starring one of my favourite actresses, Martina Gedeck, I had to watch it.

The Wall is an amazing film and Martina Gedeck does an astonishing job. She’s almost the only actor in this film and most of it is narration.

The movie is as harrowing as the book, maybe even more so. Plus it adds spectacular images of the Austrian mountain region.

The book and the movie explore the human condition and the curse it harbours. Humans are not only the only beings to be aware of death but they are also the only ones capable of evil. Book and movie say a lot about the relationship between humans and animals. The profound friendship that can arise, as much as the horror of having to kill animals if you want to survive.

While I loved the film, I think it’s not easy to watch if you’re not familiar with the book and not a very literary person as there isn’t much action but a lot of narration instead. The protagonist tells at the beginning of the film that she writes down everything that has happened to her in order to stay sane and so we see everything and hear the voice describe her thoughts and feelings at the same time.

As I said, it’s a harrowing book and some of the very sad things that happen affected me even more when I watched the movie. Still it’s excellent, very philosophical and profound.

I found an English trailer which puzzled me a bit. It’s not dubbed. It seems the movie is available in two version, one in which Martina Gedeck speaks in German and one in which she speaks English. I think they chose this approach as a subtitled version would be very tiring as she speaks almost constantly.

The book will be reissued this summer. Unfortunately with a really awful cover. I find it sad that they used a cover like this and that’s why I would like to emphasise that The Wall is a classic of Austrian literature, not some dystopian YA novel. (As you know, I personally like YA literature, but I think there is a huge difference between this literary novel and a YA novel.)

Don’t miss watching this stunning film or reading the book.

The review is part of the World Cinema Series 2013 and Foreign Film Festival 2013.