No purpose in life, no purpose at all!
Written By: Barbara Loden
Directed By: Barbara Loden
There isn’t a conventional story to be found in Wanda, but that’s the point. The story doesn’t move from point A to point B, there aren’t clear protagonists and antagonists, it’s not even a slice of life tale. Wanda is an aimless story, an aimless narrative and that’s because it is a story about characters who don’t really know what they are doing. They have no idea what they are doing and neither do we, and in that regard Wanda is a brilliant narrative because we are step for step with the feelings and moods of the characters.
You can see in Wanda the style that would be adopted by countless independent movies to come in the following years. The always on the move camera work, the sparse look to it all and the desire for quirkiness and odd characters over any conventional narrative are hallmarks of the independent film as we know it today. Wanda was one of the first, if not the first, independent films to take on this style. But, as movies such as the recent Gigantic have shown, it isn’t enough for your movie to be made in this style, it needs to work outside of its style.
Wanda is a brilliant example of a film that works within the independent style but uses its aimless characters to match the feelings of its audience and the look and feel of the characters. Wanda is a very in sync movie, that and its restrained, more natural style are what separate it from independent movies that strive to be too independent and feel inauthentic as a result. It goes back to the aimlessness of the film and its characters that I spoke of earlier. Wanda is clueless about her life, she doesn’t know what she is doing or why. The viewer becomes just as clueless because our reactions are tied into her actions. The transition from the 60’s to the 70’s was a time in America where a lot of people felt clueless about what was happening. Wanda is a film that ties into the culture of its time, and melds the audience and the characters into one, truly a great feat.
There are moments where the camera work leaves something to be desired, especially when it takes on a disorienting feel. It’s also a highly ambiguous film, and while I have zero problems with this, people looking for any sort of details to hang their hat on will have a problem with the lack thereof. However, I love the ambiguity of Wanda and I especially like how no one reason is given for what is going on. It would have been easy for Barbara Loden to make the picture a feminist essay and blame society for Wanda’s aimlessness and lack of life as a person. But, she doesn’t do that, she paints a portrait of a woman who may have been spurned by the conventions of society but who is also at fault herself.
Barbara Loden would never direct another picture, and that is shame because you can see the mind of a filmmaker with lots of potential at work. For its historical import Wanda is a film that needs to be seen, if you want to see the lone film directed by the famous Elia Kazan’s wife then Wanda is a film to be seen. But, most of all, if you are looking for a 1970’s picture that is quite different from the rest of the movies of that era and one of the first examples of quality independent film making, then you need to see Wanda.