While Bill Stone’s directorial debut Triumph of the Wall is a testament to the hard work and passion of its subjects, the documentary ultimately does not translate into a cohesive and thought-provoking film. Stone’s first foray into the world of documentary filmmaking is more of a scatterbrained connection of poetic thoughts than a streamlined and insightful film. While there is a definitely a duality between Stone and the subject of his film—the mysterious Chris Overing—it is unfortunately not enough to save the documentary from serious detractions such as its monotonous pace and its enigmatic subject.
Triumph of the Wall is the story of two men who each embark on labours of love; for Stone it is his documentary, and for Overing, it is a dry stone wall that is planned to span 1,000 feet over a vast property in rural Quebec. Brought together by pure chance, these two men, both novices in their fields, originally reason that their ventures will take eight months. However, Stone’s documentary takes place over the course of eight years, highlighting moments of utter weakness and insecurity, as well as moments of creative brilliance. Although the film suffers from a few deficiencies, the passion evident in the work of Stone and Overing is undeniable.
Right off the bat, the film establishes a slow pace that remains for its duration, effectively taking away from the impassioned work of Stone and Overing. Additionally, this monotony does not help the relatively dull subject matter of constructing a dry stone wall in rural Quebec. Overing, the film’s subject, is correctly described as “a mental explosion,” and his frenetic nature, while amusing at times, ultimately distracts the audience from the bigger picture.
The editing in Stone’s debut documentary appears sloppy at times. There are instances where voiceovers fade out too quickly, or there is an excess amount of background noise in a shot. However, this may be because it is Stone’s first time in the director’s chair. To be fair, Stone acknowledges his own shortcomings in a scene where he chronicles the first interviews with Overing and his inability to ask the “right” questions.
While the film attempts to appeal to the fervent artist in all of us, its excessive running time, monotonous pace, and overwrought subject disable this intended purpose. Described as a “manifestation of Generation Y,” the film tries to connect Stone and Overing’s indecisive journeys to an entire generation. Granted, while the film’s purpose is relatable, the execution nevertheless reduces the impact. Upon completion of the documentary, Overing’s wall is not finished, and Stone is left with an aimless film. Where the purpose of a documentary is to shed light on a certain subject and provide significant exposition, Stone fails. Instead, he provides us with an insight into his adrift mind and evokes feelings of pity rather than awe. Suffice to say, this film is not a triumph.
Triumph of the Wall opens Apr. 12 at Cinèma Excentris (3536 Boul. St-Laurent). Student tickets $9.25.