Triumph of the Wall: Film Review

First Run Features


The viewer's patience is sorely tested by this quixotic documentary that seems to take place in real time.

Bill Stone's documentary chronicles the years-long construction of a 1,000-foot stone wall.

The years-long construction of a 1,000-foot dry-stone wall is the less than compelling subject of Bill Stone’s less than compelling documentary, so painfully slow moving that it seems to take place in real time. Attempting to be a meditation on the nature of creative passion and the emotionally liberating effects of physical labor, Triumph of the Wall is as much of an exercise in frustration for the viewer as it is for its hapless protagonist.

He is Chris Overing, a young novice stonemason who,for reasons never fully explained, decided to build his wall on a property in rural Quebec. After a chance encounter in a Montreal café, the appropriately named documentarian decided to document the process, which Overing estimated would take about eight weeks.

That was in September 2001. That the wall apparently remains incomplete at this juncture indicates the rambling nature of the proceedings, about which even the filmmaker concedes in his extensive voiceover narration is “without any inherent drama.”

Truer words were never spoken, unless it’s Stone’s admission shortly thereafter that “I’m not sure what the focus of my film is anymore.” While it takes some courage to include such self-effacing comments, the filmmaker’s soporific running commentary, which includes such digressions as his laments about his girlfriend moving out and his fish dying, is far too self-indulgent to invite sympathy.

Not helping matters is the fact that his principal subject is neither particularly insightful nor self-aware himself, with the result being that the viewer is frequently left wondering about the wisdom of his own investment in time. Despite the intermittently amusing appearances of such incidental figures as a pair of drifters who briefly lend their services to the wall’s construction, the film simply meanders along. Like its titular object, it’s purportedly ambitious themes are never fully brought to fruition.

Opens: Friday, May 31 (First Run Features)

Production: Bunbury Films

Director/screenwriter: Bill Stone

Producers: Frederic Bohbot, Bill Stone

Editors: Carl Freed, Bill Stone

Composers: Julie Theriault, Mikael Tobias, Eric Harding Trio

Not rated, 102 min.