Visually stunning, with a brilliant, imaginative surface, The Fall (2006) is a movie made for polarities. Viewers will love it, hate it, find it exotic and intriguing, shallow and boring, but probably not many things in between. It was made to appeal to the director, Tarsem, it seems. The audience might just have been an afterthought.
It’s the story of a paralyzed stunt man, Roy Walker (Lee Pace), convalescing in Los Angeles, cerca 1915. He meets a five-year-old Romanian girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who is also convalescing there, from a badly broken arm. They strike up a friendship and Roy begins telling her incredible stories of heroes, villains, lost loves and revenge. The fantasy mirrors Roy’s own predicament, though with grandiose proportions, wild scene changes, and obvious mythic elements included. Roy wants to commit suicide. He thinks his life is over. He’s lost his livelihood, possibly forever, and his girl. The fantasies reflect the despair, the anger and the desire for revenge, and also mirror his attempt to get Alexandria to secure him morphine. Fantasy and current moment intertwine, blur, and impact each other.
Tarsem took four years to make the movie, and filmed it on location in some 18 countries. Special Effects are supposedly without the aid of computers. The director utilizes nature, architecture, color, dramatic angles and shadows in a way I have never seen before. Visually, the movie is magnificent. It’s actually worth seeing just for that reason. Flat out beautiful. But I wasn’t really moved by the story itself, and didn’t feel really connected with the two main characters. Though the ending almost changed my mind. It almost closed the gap and put me over the top. It was a brilliant stroke and nearly saved the movie for me.
Perhaps the lush, rich aesthetic, blasting across the screen, crowded out character, back story, personal histories. Perhaps if the director had taken more time to bring out secondary characters, the whole would have been improved . . .
It’s possible that Tarsem should work from a more established base. A work of literature with a history of involving its audience intensely. He has the visual element down, as did his cinematographer and all of the artists who worked on the project. That was more than obvious. The trouble was with the story. The trouble was with the plot.
Pan’s Labyrinth, one of my favorite movies of all time, involved me through plot, story, and visuals. Director Guillermo del Toro pulled all of the elements together to create one of the most visually appealing and emotionally involving films on record. Watching The Fall, I was reminded of Pan’s Labyrinth and it made me want to see it again. Tarsem would do well to see it many times, to note why the characters and the story line pulled the audience in, and how the fantasy elements aided but did not overwhelm everything else.
Here’s the movie trailer: