Isolation is a very rich template for a film. The varying degrees of isolation can bring to the fore very different aspects of the situation and can offer us intelligent character portraits of how one overcomes the depressive nature of isolation. There are so many shades to a human being, that coming under the spell of this very condemning circumstance can cast a kaleidoscope of possibilities.
In other words; in the right hands the possibilities are endless.
I had heard a lot of great things about ‘The Wall’. There has been a lot said about Martina Gedeck’s performance, some calling it a tour-de-force and really labeling it one of the finest performances put to film this year. I have only seen her in a handful of things, but she left a lasting impression on me when I saw her in 2006’s ‘The Lives of Others’ and so I was intrigued greatly by the prospect of her completely consuming me once again. She has such raw talent, and this premise felt so organic and so capable of drawing out the best in a talented actress.
Sadly, I found this to be extremely underwhelming, and for the most part I feel as if it was Gedeck’s fault. While I am all for subtlety, this performance felt so hopelessly one-note that I was begging for her to break character and smash a plate!
The story follows a woman who ventures into the wilderness with an elderly couple for vacation. The couple goes hiking, leaving this woman alone in the cabin. When she eventually ventures out with her trusty dog Lynx, she finds that she has become trapped by an indescribable wall. She can’t see the wall, but she can feel it, and it continues to tighten its grip on her. So, she is alone with her dog and a few other animals. As she learns to fend for herself (hunting, gathering, defending) she narrates her story as she writes it down in the confines of her world. Her situation is never explained and her countenance never changes.
That is a problem.
I have no issue with the ambiguity of her situation. It is dire and supernatural, of course, but the mystery that surrounds it is actually part of the film’s impact and so I am drawn to that aspect. I also found the haunting cinematography to be key to the film’s overall impact. The film is just lush and gorgeous, but it always feels slightly dangerous thanks to the key use of lighting and natural elements (that fog). Still, the remarkably one-note delivery from Gedeck never struck me as natural. She is so downtrodden (even in the outset, before she is alone) that the true nature of her situation is lost. We never grow in her desperation but always feel held back by her complacency. Nothing affects her. She is void of any emotional connection to her surroundings, and when she shows a brief glimpse of some sort of emotion (the whole gun scene in the very end) it is for a mere moment and then gone, without real explanation. She reminds me a lot of Ryan Gosling’s monotone performance in ‘Only God Forgives’, and I hated that one too.
For as rich as the prose was, the overall execution felt so uninspired, or underworked.
I give this a C-. I really wanted this to be special, but it proved to be a trial at times. Oscar won’t touch this, obviously (was that even a question?) but so many seem to be in love with Gedeck here. She’s managed a few nominations (mostly German awards from last year) but really the only thing of note here is the cinematography and the score.