Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Fall (2006)

Title: The Fall (2006)

Director: Tarsem Singh

Cast: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru


So I take it you guys have noticed how big a Tarsem fan I am, but what can I say? His films are so beautiful to look at I just can’t help myself. Actually, I’m kind of angry at myself for not having seen The Fall before, when the film was first released way back in 2006. I guess the film didn’t get much of a promotional push upon its initial release, and quite honestly, I cant imagine why! This movie has so many redeeming qualities! There are so many good things about it! It seems to me like the only way The Fall gets the recognition it deserves is by word of mouth. Sooooo, let me be another one of those reviewers to spread the love around: The Fall is an amazing movie! It is without a doubt in my mind Tarsem’s best film to date. I recently had a chance to watch and enjoy Tarsem’s Immortals which I loved and was impressed by, but after having seen The Fall I can safely say that it’s the best film in Tarsem’s repertoire. Why? Read on my friends…read on.

The Fall tells the story of a Alexandria, a little girl who is secluded in a hospital in L.A. recovering from a broken arm. Alexandria ends up befriending another patient in the hospital, a young actor by the name of Roy Walker. Roy is trying to recover from a bad back, you see, he is a stunt man for the movies and his latest stunt (jumping off a moving train and onto a horse) went horribly wrong, and so he hurt his back so badly he is now paraplegic and bed ridden. Good thing Alexandria is here to lighten up his day! They meet by happenstance, yet they develop a deep and profound friendship. To entertain Alexandria, Roy begins telling her a series of stories that he makes up as he goes along, sadly, even though he enjoys Alexandria’s company, Roy wants nothing more than to end his life. He feels he is half the man he was and he doesn’t want to live like this. Will he do it? Or will Alexandria save Roy’s soul?

To me Tarsem Singh is one of the great fantasy directors of our time. He reminds me of other directors entirely devoted to fantasy like Terry Gilliam for example, who I am absolutely sure has influenced Tarsem in one way or another. In fact, while watching The Fall, it reminded of one of Terry Gilliam’s fantasy masterpieces: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Let’s mention the similarities shall we? The main character is a little girl, she escapes into a fantasy land where the good guys each have a special ability, one is a scientist, one is an explosives expert, one is a bandit…and so forth. In fact, the five characters that Alexandria meets in her fantasy world are like superheroes in many ways, same as the good guys in Adventures of Baron Munchausen and same as in that movie, the little girl is trying to save an older mans soul, and older man who becomes a father figure to her. Though The Fall is reportedly inspired by a Bulgarian film called Yo Ho Ho (1981), I would say that Gilliam’s film was also highly influential here.
But don’t go on thinking The Fall is simply a rip off of any other film because in many, many ways, The Fall is actually a very unique film unlike anything you will ever see.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film is the way in which it was made. Tarsem funded most of this film himself so he could make it his way, which makes The Fall a film totally void of studio intervention. This is Tarsem doing exactly the kind of film that he wants to make. That’s right my friends, this isn’t just any old film, this is a special film. How special you ask? Well, for example, The Fall was filmed in 18 different countries! But you wouldn’t know it by watching the film, because it all looks like it’s part of a cohesive universe that exists in little Alexandria’s head. The way in which The Fall was made reminded me of the way German director Werner Herzog makes his films. A lot of Herzog’s films are shot in such outlandish locations that one could easily mistake them for some fantasy world, or alien planet, when in fact Herzog makes his films right here on Planet Earth. It’s just that he knows how to exploit exotic locations to the max. The same thing can be said about Tarsem’s The Fall, the exotic locations chosen whisk us away to Alexandria and Roy’s fantasy world.

Tarsem’s films are often times accused of being style over substance, which is a fair assessment. It’s true, Tarsem loves conjuring up beautiful visuals and it’s true that he sometimes does this at the expense of story and character development, in some ways Immortals is a good example of that. But this was not the case with The Fall a film that kept me engaged, and a lot of that had to do with Catinca Untaru’s performance. Catican Untaru is the young actress who plays Alexandria. She’s such a cute little girl, so lovable, so innocent. She conveys the innocence of childhood to perfection. I hadn’t fallen in love with a young actresses’ performance so much since I saw Amelie (2001). I am wondering why she hasn’t been used in films again? The friendship that Roy and Alexandria develop during the course of the film feels so genuine and true. Roy is an adult who is depressed with his life; Alexandria is there to remind him how beautiful life can be. In many ways she functions like Roy’s guardian angel, coming to “save his soul”. The film took me by surprise because by its third half, the film had me in an emotional turmoil! I was sad…then seconds later I was happy, then seconds later I am devastated again! I’m not at liberty to say if a couple of my tears escaped or not, I’ll just say that heart strings where pulled; and the last director to do that to me with one of his films was Fellini with his Nights of Cabiria (1957). Very few directors manage to actually make a film that truly stirs my emotions, but dammit, Tarsem did it with The Fall. And speaking of Tarsem, if you want to see him direct the hell out of this film, watch the dvd extras where you can see how this amazing film came to be. On it you can see how passionate Tarsem is when he directs. You can actually see him squeeze tears from the little actress for some of the more emotional scenes, making a movie this movie was one big emotional journey for this young actress and I salute her for pulling it off. 

Like many of Terry Gilliam’s films, Tarsem’s films are highly influenced by art. This is something that I also talked a bit about in my review for Tarsem’s The Cell (2000). The Fall is no different. This one has a little bit of Dahli in it. You know how Dahli made these paintings that look one way from up close and totally different when you look at them from afar? Tarsem pulls this off in The Fall with some of its images. In fact, the poster for The Fall was inspired by Dahli’s “Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as an Apartment” So we have a film with lots of artistic influences in it, which of course explains why it’s so rich visually. Not only that, but The Fall also manages to pay its respects to older films, and to stunt men and woman who risked their lives in the past to entertain us. In this way it reminded me of films like Scorcese’s Hugo (2011), films that pay homage to all those filmmakers from the past.   

Dahli’s “Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as an Apartment”, which influenced the poster for The Fall

In conclusion, this is in my opinion Tarsem’s best film. You know how some of the best directors in the world have made films that are completely ignored upon their first release, and it’s only years later that people discover them and give them the respect they deserve? I think this will happen with The Fall. It’s an amazing film that failed to connect with audiences or fire up the box office when it was first released to the world. Hopefully, as time goes by people will finally discover this amazing film and give it the credit that it is due. It has many similarities with films like The Wizard of Oz (1939), Labyrinth (1986), Mirrormask (2005) and Pans Labyrinth (2006), films about a little girl escaping her harsh reality by going into a fantasy world in her mind. Do yourself a favor and check out this beautiful and emotional film by one of the finest fantasy directors working today.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Jack Thursby said...

Great film. Watched this last year, just a gorgeous looking movie. I would happily have any frame from the film as a picture on my wall.

Good call on the Gilliam influence. There's definitely a similar style and feel.

Haven't seen Immortals yet, but will do soon. Quite worried about the upcoming Mirror Mirror though.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

I've been meaning to check this out for a while now. 5 out of 5 stars, I'll have to finally do it!

Franco Macabro said...

Jack: Mirror, Mirror hasnt totally convinced me either, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Direct to Video Connoisseur: Very deserving of its 5 out of 5 rating, it is a very moving film. Stay with it all the way to the end! I forgot to mention this on my review but the film has some similarities as well with films like Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth and Pans Labyrinth. Films about a little girl, escaping to a fantasy world, hope you enjoy it!

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student said...

This is one of the finest movies visually and emotionally for me. So spectacular. I almost cried. Its my favorite movie for now. I dont know why it did not get the accolades it deserves. Alexendra is the cutest and finest liitle actress there.. I am in love with her. She made me cry when she fell in the movie and the scenes between her and Roy were soul stirring. My question is who is governor Odius in reality? Is he the same guy that Roy's lover falls for? And I did not get why Evelyn was shown has Odius's fiance. Maybe the similarities between Evelyn and Roy's GF as they both fall for wealthy and established men or is it due to the fact both Roy and Alexendra are imagining and ?

Franco Macabro said...

Totally agree with you student, this film is very moving, I was also brought to tears by it a couple of times. I can't answer all your questions because I haven't seen the film in a long I don't remember the specifics, but I do remember that everything from the real world is somehow represented in the dream world.

Thanks for commenting!


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