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The Fall (2006)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Fantasy, Fantasy Drama, Period Film
Tarsem Singh Tarsem Singh
Catinca Untaru Catinca Untaru
Justine Waddell Justine Waddell
Lee Pace Lee Pace
Kim Uylenbroek Kim Uylenbroek
Aiden Lithgow Aiden Lithgow

7.5 / 10 - 5 votes

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 19, 2008
You've got to hand it to director Tarsem - he definitely has a distinct visual style. I remember first being exposed to the director at a young age - his "Losing My Religion" video for the band R.E.M. was one of my favorites. There was just something about the imagery that he evoked and the way he went about orchestrating it that resonated with me. His first feature film, "The Cell", had the same kind of power over me - almost hypnotic. I remember seeing that film and sitting in awe at his visual power as a filmmaker; his ability to make art out of violence and nightmare. "The Fall" is his latest venture, and it's his first film eight years, though the film has been in development for close to five years. It's definitely a leap forward for the filmmaker - he's tackling a film that just begs for epic status and he does so with a minimal budget and the use of over 18 countries. "The Fall" is gorgeous from the first images of the railroad and the horse to the final images of the classic footage of famous Hollywood stunt crashes. The film evokes a lot of emotions and themes that do not come across on the surface - they sink into your skin and expose themselves long after you have left the theatre. After I first left the theatre, I was a fan of the picture but did not think it was close to extraordinary. The more I think on it, the more it sticks with me. I woke up this morning with its imagery in my head and I've spent the day going over the film again in my head. That is the truest sign of a great film. So, let me get it out there - "The Fall" is a great film.

The setting is: Los Angeles, Once Upon A Time. We soon learn that 'once upon a time' translates to the early days of Hollywood, back in the silent film era. Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is in the hospital for a broken arm and she spends her days wandering about the wards and the offices, just as a little girl would do. One day, she happens upon Roy (Lee Pace), who was injured on a movie set and finds himself confined to a bed in the hospital. Alexandria visits with him and the two then strike up a bizarre friendship. You see - Roy is suicidal over losing the woman he loved and he starts telling the story in the hopes of winning Alexandria over so she might sneak into the hospital dispensary and steal some morphine that he might use to kill himself. The story he tells, off the cuff, is of a group of men - Luigi (Robin Smith), The Indian (Jeetu Verma), Otta Benga (Marcus Wesley), The Mystic (Julian Bleach), Charles Darwin (Leo Bill) - who are all dead set on finding the awful Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). The little girl gets wrapped up in this world of fiction and does anything Roy asks her to do, though she just doesn't know that what she's doing could wind up ending Roy's life. The characters in the story also pop up as supporting characters in the real world, in everything from an ice delivery man to an orange harvester. The film revolves around the relationship between Alexandria and Roy and how they connect to one another in such bizarre ways. In the end, both have learned a little something and have found new meaning.

This film is epic in every sense of the word. The film was shot in over 18 countries - Romania, Italy, Germany, Fiji - just to name a few. The scope is awesome. We are presented with some of the most gorgeous locations ever captured on film - mountains and deserts and oceans and stone cities. These are the kinds of backdrops that most filmmakers would kill for, but very few are that fortunate to use. Tarsem financed much of the film himself, along with his fellow producers, and luckily the film found its way to both Spike Jonze and David Fincher, who both took an active interest in seeing it find an audience. It's a good thing they did - "The Fall" is the closest thing to a modern day masterpiece that we're likely to see any time soon. It's not perfect - it does have its flaws - but that is true with any masterpiece. But what makes a masterpiece is not perfection - it's the feeling it leaves you with when you leave the theatre. Director Tarsem also insists that he used no visual effects in the film - that everything you see is practical, though I have a difficult time believing that when you can tell that some of the arrows are digitized. But, kudos to director Tarsem on creating one of the most creative and awe inspiring pictures of recent memory, a true testament to his love of cinema and his ability to convey that love to the masses.

In terms of performances, Catinca Untaru is just fantastic as Alexandria. She did not know English when she made the film, but she learned all of her lines by heart and her performances comes across as so heartfelt and genuine that it just leaves you smiling throughout. It is one of the best child performances I have ever seen, and a real treat. Lee Pace also delivers one hell of a fine performance in a film that should have thrust him into the spotlight long before "Pushing Daisies" became a hit television show. All of the supporting performers are impressive also, especially Leo Bill as Charles Darwin. "The Fall" had elements of all the classic films, everything from "The Wizard of Oz" to "Lawrence of Arabia" to "Fitzcerraldo". It's a whimsical film that wows and wonders - that dazzles and pops. The ending of the film, with the old Hollywood silent footage, is almost equal to some of the sequences in "Cinema Paradiso" in the emotions they convey. It's just difficult to describe a film that leaves you with so many tender emotions. The last film to touch me on that kind of a level, viscerally, was probably "Imaginary Heroes", and even that film was nowhere close to as powerful as "The Fall" on so many levels.

The sad thing is that this film is all but vanished from theatres and I don't see it landing many award nominations come Oscar time. This is a film that deserves an audience because I think so many people out there will fall in love with it. It touches on so many themes and levels of emotion that it is going to resonate a little with you, even if you don't fall for the visual style. "The Fall" is one of the best films of the year and one of the most pleasurable cinematic experience I can remember from recent memory. It delights the senses from beginning to end. The best sequence in the film comes towards the beginning when the men are trying to get off an island and enlist the assistance of a rather large elephant to do so. Just beautiful. Be sure to add "The Cell" to your Netflix queue and then add "The Fall" as soon as it becomes available, so you can watch the progression of a fine director. If you can find "The Fall" playing somewhere close by, check it out on a big screen. It will enhance your enjoyment tenfold. Your 'fall' for this film just like I did. Guaranteed.

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The Red Clover #1: The Red Clover - added 08/20/2008, 01:06 PM
I agree with this review wholeheartedly. 10/10
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