Wanda (1970) passive, quiet, built up angst into the realization of nothingness.
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
Barbara Loden and filmmaker Kathleen Collins are to me kindred spirits. Both died in their mid to late 40s of breast cancer and both were firsts as independent writers and directors. Their stories were never given the credit they deserved and both have seen a revival of their works after their deaths. Barbara Loden was the wife of the legendary filmmaker Elia Kazan and was overshadowed by his immense career and power in Hollywood. A mutual friend of the couple Harry Schuster offered Loden $100,000 dollars to make her own film debut. By lack of interest, no one wanted to direct the screenplay Loden had made so by default Barbara would end up writing, starring, and directing in her debut film Wanda.
Films like Wanda or Losing Ground where not given the distribution of male counterparts and audiences may have just been shocked by the cinéma véritè styles and realism that were so counter intuitive to the Hollywood narrative that audiences had known all of their lives. Not to say that films in Hollywood had not showcased strong women such as Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, or Barbara Stanwyck to name just a few female powerhouses in the Hollywood mainstream, but a film like Wanda was so stripped down to the essential points it was like watching a raw nerve unfold in front of your eyes. The power to have complete control of your own work, voice, and vision was far greater than anyone could anticipate or articulate. The truth hurts.
Everything Wanda needs to survive; food, water, shelter, cigarettes, beer, clothes, all come from men. All her power is completely stripped and the hardest part of all is Wanda goes along for the ride passively without a fight. How can you learn to fight when you have never been taught? How do you leave an abusive situation when you have no support system or tools to empower yourself? How can you go on living as a woman in a man's world? At every turn, Wanda's only means of survival is by a man. Her husband wants a divorce because he finds her unfit as a mother and wife, her father gives her a small amount of money which she ends up losing because it is stolen out of her wallet when she falls asleep in a movie theater. Every choice she makes is out of survival and rooted in self-loathing and fear.
Barbara Loden shows the confines of patriarchy when Wanda is shopping in the mall for a dress she is ordered to buy because the man she is tagging along with a bank robber named Mr. Dennis screams at her," when you are with me no slacks" and proceeds to throw her clothes out of the window of his moving car. Wanda sits in the car like a passive doll waiting for her next meal. The only time Wanda has any moments of peace is when she sips on her beer and drifts into an altered state of disillusionment.