WYSHW: The Fall
Tarsem Singh has received a lot of guff for his work – lest we forget Nostalgia Critic’s annihilation of The Cell (perhaps a tad too harsh, but that’s for another day) – granted, he hasn’t made many films, but I’ve noticed that they’ve either been notably shallow or tries too hard to be deep. I feel that The Fall is an exception. On the surface, the film does appear to be a pretentious work, but that’s merely on the surface. The Fall tells us a story about…well, stories – both spoken and seen – and the power they have to reveal to us the truth of the human condition. Because this story is so involved, I’m going to break this one down – and yes, there are spoilers.
I could see how people could find an introduction like this a little daunting. No, the whole movie’s not like this – this just sets the scene, providing the origin of our main character’s demise while being a homage to the film industry, which appears more-so at the end. This shouldn’t throw you off-guard too much, this intro is merely for you to sit back and take in.
Alexandria and Roy
After the intro we fade to “California, Once Upon A Time,” presumably the 1930s. Here we meet our main character, Alexandria (amateur actress Catinca Untaru) who is hospitalized with a broken arm. It isn’t before too long that she meets the hospital’s newest patient, Roy (Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies fame), a bed-ridden stuntman. Roy isn’t really doing too hot – after paralyzing himself doing a stunt, he has learned that his girlfriend left him for the start of the picture he was working on. After meeting Alexandria, he whips up a scheme to relieve his suffering, regardless of the consequences.
What I enjoyed most about these characters is the chemistry between them – most of which was based on misunderstanding, which in retrospect is quite charming. For one, Catinca actually believed that Lee was a paraplegic, which allowed a much more sympathetic delivery on her part. Secondly, much of their dialogue was improvised, so the smallest of comments became crucial to the details – such as Alexandria misreading the letter E for the number 3, or the idea of ones’ strength being in their teeth.
The concept Roy spinning an “Epic” is similar to the tale of Scheherazade, only instead to keep his life, Roy intends to end his. He starts a tale of a motley crew consisting of an Indian, an Italian demolitions expert, Charles Darwin, an ex-slave, a mystic, and a Masked Bandit. All they have in common is a hatred for Governor Odious, a tyrant who does nasty things for the sake of being nasty. I don’t mean to sound cheesy here, but there really is something magical about this story. It seamlessly weaves together the lives of a pair of strangers, with Roy’s experience and Alexandria’s imagination, which makes the climax so much more profound, visually and emotionally.
I’m just going to say it: The Fall is a truly beautiful film. I know I didn’t go into the unfathomable beauty of the visuals, but seriously, words cannot describe. Despite the surreality of this movie, no special effects were used – it was shot in 28 countries over the course of four years. The story itself strives on the idea of stories as a powerful medium – they tell us how to live and why – not to mention, they bring strangers together despite the odds.
This tradition carries on through generations to come through the power of movie-making. As mentioned, the intro is somewhat a homage to the film industry, and then the movie ends with a montage of some of the most impressive stunts from the silent era. One could say this was a self-absorbed move on Tarsem’s part, but it gives one time to think about the sweat, blood and tears that went into films back then – and how much has never been seen. It’s a thought anyway.
Next time on What You Should Have Watched, a love story everyone should see. I’m serious.