Wanda – dir.Barbara Loden, 1970

Wanda (Barbara Loden), as her name phonetically suggests, wanders. She walks around the industrial wasteland of her town, distracted and solitary. Her pale fragile figure skimming the black coals of the quarries, like foam on coffee.  She walks around in a peppermint haze, a colour that permeates the film, like an aura around the sadness. The film, in long lingering shots, follows Wanda as she goes from the courtroom, where swiftly, and uncontested, she divorces her husband and leaves her children, to cafés, cars, and cinemas, where she is invariably picked up by strangers, pick-pocketed, and abandoned.  Finally she enters a bar where she meets moustachioed man, Mr Dennis (Michael Higgins) who unknowingly to her is in the process of robbing the joint.  Wanda, whose character is frail and disconcertingly unfeigned, is so cracked that the light shines through.  She emanates goodness, innocence even, dressed in white dress and shoes.  Yet she’s a bad mother, her husband told the court, and she’s clearly a drifter with a perpetual sadness that seeks that old on the road cliché, the comfort of strangers. Mr Dennis is no comfort, an oddly family-man looking criminal, he is clearly on the brink of some horrendous maniacal descent. Bespectacled and menacing, Mr Dennis emits extraordinary unhappiness and discontent, he leads Wanda on a criminal escapade, telling her she hasn’t done anything until now, and yet ultimately fools only himself with his words.  Wanda, who throughout the film remains unaffected by the physical and mental tortures she endures, finally displays an outward sense of grief after the tragedy of Mr Dennis. Her still silent figure crammed in between various revelers, she is unable to mask the effect of the wretched days’ events, and we watch her pretty face crumble as the stirring music plays on.

★★★★★

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