Barbara Loden’s Wanda can be similarly compared to Agnes Varda’s Vagabond. Both are films centered on female drifters who struggle to find a place in society, albeit for different reasons. Whereas Mona in Vagabond wanders as a form of resistance towards societal norms expected of women, the titular Wanda wanders out of what appears to be a sense of nihilism, caring not for who she wanders with or the consequences.
The story follows Wanda, a woman with barely a background, no story herself. At least, not one Loden makes the audience privy to. Wanda is a mother and a wife, but she doesn’t seem to care for either role. Her husband divorces her and takes the children.She then begins to roam with no destination in particular.
Loden not only directs the film but also plays Wanda. She brings to the role an inexplicable aura that could be best described as haggardness or exhaustion; it’s something much deeper than that. One needs to see how Loden frames herself, how Loden carries herself, and how Loden reacts to the world around her.
Loden directs her own movements patiently, allowing the camera to linger and expose the minutiae of her personality. As if constantly in retreat from the world around her, the corner of the frame becomes Wanda’s home. Simultaneously, however, Wanda can also occupy any part of the frame and somehow be invisible, whether she’s taken refuge amongs bar-goers or sleeping underneath a blanket. To watch Wanda is to watch the multitudes of Loden unfold.