Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Wanda (1970)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Wanda (1970)

In writer/actor/director Barbara Loden's intelligent, bleak, raw and original low-budget grainy, documentary-styled character study and road movie - her sole directorial effort and the first feature length film to be written, directed and acted in by a female - but almost entirely neglected:

  • the circumstances surrounding the grim and disconnected life of lower-class, unambitious, uneducated and dim-witted Wanda Goronski (Barbara Loden), living in a coal-mining, Rust Belt area of Pennsylvania, where she had drunkenly deserted her coal-miner husband (Jerome Thier) and two very young children
  • the divorce court hearing before a judge (M.L. Kennedy) where the husband complained about Wanda: "She doesn't care about anything. She was a lousy wife, she was always bummin' around, drinkin'. Never took care of us, never took care of the kids. I used to get up for work, make my own breakfast, change the kid. You come home from work. She's lyin' around on the couch. The kids are dirty. The diapers on the floor. Sometimes the kids is outside, runnin' around, nobody watchin' 'em"; Wanda who arrived late and was still in her curlers, lost her children after she had been accused of being a bad mother; she passively acquiesed and told the judge in a monotone: "Listen judge, if he wants a divorce, just give it to him....(the children) They'd be better off with him"
  • as a drifter (unemployed, destitute, and amoral), she slept in a dark movie theatre showing the Spanish-language film El Golfo (1969), and awoke, realizing that the money in her wallet, pickpocketed from her purse, had been emptied
  • the scene of her wandering into an almost-empty bar after closing to use the restroom and clean up, and her meeting with nervous petty criminal Norman Dennis (Michael Higgins) behind the bar, who was in the midst of a robbery, with the bartender tied up and gagged on the floor; almost immediately, migraine-suffering Dennis began to treat her abusively at a restaurant: "Wipe your mouth!", and after sleeping with her, he barked: "Don't touch my head!" and ordered her to get them some food: "Well, come on, make it snappy, I'm hungry!"; when she returned appearing lost, he slapped her across the face: "Hey, stupid!" - and then angrily complained that the three burgers she brought had too many garnishes; she finally responded minutes later to the slap: "What did you do that for? That hurt!"
  • the scene of the two lovers on the run drinking a bottle of bourbon and beer near their stolen car at a garbage dump, and Mr. Dennis' continued abuse when he criticized penniless Wanda's "terrible" hair and her non-chalant attitude: "You're stupid...You don't want anything, you won't have anything. You don't have anything, you're nothing. You may as well be dead. You're not even a citizen of the United States" - she answered flatly: "I guess I'm dead, then"
  • suddenly a remote-controlled, motorized model airplane was heard buzzing overhead, operated by a family nearby; in a futile effort, Dennis jumped up on top of the car roof and waved his arms at the plane, like an impotent King Kong, taunting it to come closer
  • the sequence of the planning of a bank heist at Third National Bank in Scranton, PA in which Wanda was forced to participate by Mr. Dennis, and vehemently complained: "I can't do this"; he demanded as he held her shoulders in front of a mirror, and spoke into the back of her blonde-haired head: "You listen to me. Wanda. Maybe you never did anything before. Maybe you never did. But you're gonna do this!"
  • the scene of the hostage-taking of bank president Mr. Anderson (Jack Ford), and the typing up of his family in their home, in which Wanda took an active role as an accomplice (afterwards, Dennis quietly complimented her at a car window as he handed her the getaway car keys: "You did good! You're really something" and she smiled back)
  • in the botched heist, the co-dependent and dysfunctional Wanda lost her way in a getaway car, and when she finally arrived (wearing a fake pregnancy outfit), she was cordoned off on the sidewalk as she watched the post-robbery activity at the bank; after the failed robbery, the aimless Wanda ended up in a bar, where she watched a TV report about the robbery, the dismantling of a fake dynamite bomb at the Anderson home, and Mr. Dennis' eventual death (after being shot by police during a shoot-out)
  • the final sequence in another roadhouse bar/restaurant, where a friendly woman asked Wanda on the sidewalk: "Honey, are you waitin' for somebody?" - she kindly took pity on Wanda, and invited her to a raucous upstairs party in progress; the film ended with a freeze frame on Wanda's lost, contorted and lonely face, unnoticed and isolated as she unhappily sat in the midst of everyone, holding a beer, nibbling on a sandwich, and smoking a cigarette (was she reflecting on her loser life or not?)


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