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Movie review: 'The Wall' makes isolation work

A woman finds herself inexplicably cut off from civilization in Julian Roman Pölser's absorbing allegorical tale.

June 13, 2013

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"The Wall" is a remarkably involving film, especially given its brave, self-imposed limitations. Writer-director Julian Roman Pölser, working with the superb Martina Gedeck ("The Lives of Others") — in effect, the movie's sole actor — has crafted a gripping tale of survival, loss, fate and other big themes, all wrapped up in a deceptively basic story.

Gedeck's unnamed character, let's call her "the woman," finds herself alone in the scenic Austrian mountains after Hugo and Luise, the older couple she's traveled there with, set off for a walk into the village and never return. The woman is left with her friends' sturdy hound, Lynx, and their well-stocked hunting lodge, where Gedeck's heroine will spend what we learn — via her ongoing voice-overs (based on poetic journal entries) — will be the next several years.

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The reason: There's an invisible wall the woman discovers her second day in the mountains that prevents her from leaving. That is, unless someone should come along to rescue her. Until then, it's just her and the loyal Lynx, along with a cow and, at one point, two cats. (The "rules" of the pesky wall go unexplored, giving the film a distinctly allegorical vibe.)

How our protagonist subsists and changes, grows closer to Lynx, and battles several key obstacles, make up most of the action. It's all far more transfixing than it may sound — and definitely worth the trip.

— Gary Goldstein

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'The Wall.'

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. In English and German with English subtitles.

Playing: At Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.