Review of Behind the Wall (2015). United States, 17 minutes. Written and directed by Bat-Sheva Guez. Starring Karen Lynn Gorney, Lou Patane, and Alexandra Turshen.
Bat-Sheva Guez’s film Behind the Wall gives a fascinating view of the lives of an injured dancer and her lively older neighbors. Told through dance, Behind the Wall is a section of a feature Guez is currently working on. Behind the Wall tackles the fluid nature of life in an intriguing story about longevity and friendship. The film opens by introducing Katrin, a young dancer displaced by an injury that forces her to confront a life change.
When we first see Katrin, she’s wearing a cumbersome boot and is overwhelmed by sadness over a life changing injury. Katrin receives a care-package from her father at her new address on a quiet street in Brooklyn, and she emits a gentle smile. The audience senses how overwhelmed she feels as she confronts a new direction in her life and career, all while navigating an unfamiliar city.
Feeling lonely and surrounded by the new din of the city, Katrin struggles to sleep. Noticing an opening in the wall of the old building she now calls home, she decides to look through. Much to her surprise she finds a couple in their seventies wide awake and dancing to the rhythm of the night.
Watching them Katrin wonders if perhaps this couple has been kept awake by the sounds of the old building as well. She suddenly recognizes the dancing woman as John Travolta’s lively dance teacher in Saturday Night Fever, Karen Lynn Gorney. An unlikely friendship develops between Katrin and the couple, changing her outlook on life.
Throughout the film we come to know Katrin as a multi-dimensional character, one who is wildly observant of her life and the life going on around her. She communicates this through movement, rather than words. Much like the character she portrays, Alexandra Turshen’s dance career was ended by an injury. Perhaps due to her own experiences, Turshen embodies Katrin in a sensitive and insightful manner.
When I look at Guez’s work, I’m impressed by its breadth, depth, and quality. Guez has rapidly been able to craft stories that seem to bring out a sense of wonder in their characters and in the relationships between them.
Behind the Wall has had numerous early successes, including winning the Grand Prize for Best Cinematography at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Guez has created a magical universe that reminds us of the unique rewards of relationships. We can only wonder what this deliberate New York filmmaker and her team will do next.