Drawing inspiration from Wald, a 2015 novel by the bestselling author Doris Knecht, as well as her own traumatic experience of witnessing the 2020 Vienna attack, writer-director Elisabeth Scharang retreats to the woods in this atmospheric and soul-stirring film.
Marian Malin (played by the brilliant Brigitte Hobmeier) has everything she could hope for: a successful career, a deep romantic love, and time to pursue her passions. Everything is perfect until she and her husband (Bogdan Dumitrache) witness a deadly terrorist attack in the heart of Vienna, her homeland’s capital. Plagued with post-traumatic flashbacks, Marian is unable to function in the city and flees to a Lower Austria country house that once belonged to her grandparents. There, in what seems like relative safety, she freely roams the woods and rekindles a connection to the simple place she once called home. But it is not without its own presences, including old friends Gerti (the revelatory Gerti Drassl) and Franz (Johannes Krisch), both of whom stayed in the village and for whom Marian’s return summons questions about life-defining events.
For her latest feature, writer-director Elisabeth Scharang drew inspiration from Wald, a 2015 novel by the bestselling author Doris Knecht, as well as her own traumatic experience witnessing the 2020 Vienna attack, where a terrorist rampage killed four people and injured 23. The film is impeccably shot by Jörg Widmer, who previously worked with Scharang on Jack (TIFF ’15) and Heart Hunting, and also shot Benjamin Millepied’s Carmen (TIFF ’22), Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life (TIFF ’19), and Wim Wenders’ Pina (TIFF ’11). Out of any comfort zone with seemingly no way back, Scharang’s haunting film asks: When everything collapses, how do we grieve the past while learning to live in the future?
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence