Movies We Like
A vast industrial landscape, two towering smoke stacks, a rundown factory building, and a coal-covered ground as far as the eye can see. Somewhere in the distance a small white dot slowly moves over the black and gray landscape. This tiny dot is our main character, Wanda (Barbara Loden), attempting to find her way through the barren wasteland that has become her life.
Wanda is a meditative American Road Movie about a poor housewife who begins to feel lost and empty with the state of her life. After being accused by her husband of abandoning him and their children at a divorce hearing, Wanda aimlessly begins to drift from her home and take to the road. Unsure of her purpose and direction, Wanda finds herself clinging to another lost soul she meets on her journey, the short tempered small-time crook Norman (Michael Higgins). Wanda and Norman drift through highways and towns, committing petty crimes and robberies that eventually lead to tragic ends.
This may not be the most excited description of a film, but Wanda is a beautifully moving story that says so much about the aspects of life we find so hard to articulate ourselves. It’s the writer, director, and star Barbara Loden’s unquestionable talent and intuition that makes Wanda a great film. Amazingly her first film as a director, Loden allows the story to slowly find its way just as her characters do in the film. Loden uses the camera as a fly on the wall to observe delicate moments of silence and tenderness between the characters, while also capturing the dreary and dreamy landscape they inhabit. Through the acting and directing in the film a visual poetry is created as the story unfolds.
Barbara Loden started her career as an actress in the 50’s working with famed director Elia Kazan who she eventually married. Sadly, Wanda was Barbara Loden’s only feature film as a writer/director. She directed two more short films before she died of cancer in 1980. Wanda stands as one of the unsung landmark independent films of the 1970’s. All fans of Road Movies should see this film. (DVD: Parlour Pictures)