Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Fall (2008): A Review


The Mystical Stuntman...

Oh, but how I struggle with The Fall.  It is one of those films where I get where they're going and what it wants to be, but also one which had my a bit frustrated and a little bit bored (bored enough to start wandering into schoolwork).  I figure many people will either love it or hate it: there will be no middle ground.  Director Tarsem Singh doubles down on the elaborate visuals and mystical nature of the story.  Its ultimate success or failure will depend on a viewer's patience with such elements.

A Hollywood stuntman, Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is severely injured after a stunt gone wrong.  He appears to be paralyzed and is at a hospital, where he meets Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), another patient at the hospital.  Roy soon begins to tell her a fantastical story of a Masked Bandit (Pace again) who joins forces with four others against the evil Governor Odious for vengeance.

Soon, Alexandria begins finding the people around her become the characters, with Roy becoming that Masked Bandit and she herself as his daughter.  Fantasy and reality soon begin to blur as Roy uses the story to con Alexandria into getting morphine for him (more than likely to commit suicide with).  In her innocence she keeps botching the job, bringing either the wrong drugs or placebos, while Roy starts blending the tragedies in his life (his lost love, his injuries) into making his story a darker, more hopeless one.

Alexandria becomes more despairing as Roy/The Masked Bandit sees his comrades fall and the Bandit himself coming close to dying.  She pushes for a semblance of hope in his story, and it looks like the audience will ultimately see a happyish ending.  Alexandria recovers from her injuries and returns to her family's orange grove, and we see that perhaps Roy has recovered to where he can perform great feats in silent movies, or perhaps that was all in Alexandria's mind.

I imagine that one's tolerance for weirdness will affect how he/she views The Fall.  I found that The Fall was too weird for children to see as a pure fantasy...and it would be too weird for adults too.  Given that it has been some time since I've seen The Fall, my memories of how difficult I found the overall tone of it may have played against it.

This isn't to say that in some respects, The Fall is a little inaccessible and opaque.  Sometimes the visuals and overall mysticism it throws at us can make someone who wants a more straightforward film almost leap up in frustration.  If anyone said that The Fall was a bit pretentious, I wouldn't fault them for saying so.

However, if we look past certain things we can find that The Fall can be enjoyed for sheer visual splendor.  Eiko Ishioka can always be counted on to create fantastical, elaborate, otherworldly costumes (from her Oscar-winning work in Bram Stoker's Dracula to her posthumous nomination for the whimsical Mirror Mirror).  The Fall, another collaboration with Singh, is no exception to Ishioka's creative powers.

If anything, the Ishioka/Singh collaboration is something that future film students should study, to see how they complimented each other in the creation of fantastical universes.

The cinematography and score are also within the keeping of that fantasy/dream world that The Fall revels in.

In short, The Fall is certainly one for the avant-garde lover (though even then I find that maybe this film will try their patience).

When I first saw it, I wrote that I felt sorry for the actors to be in something this bizarre, but again, time has tempered my views on that.  Lee Pace, a top-rate actor who has stubbornly not broken out the way his talent merits, does the dual roles of The Masked Bandit and Roy, the hero and the broken man.  He balances the performances so well.  He is part of the show, and he does it quite well. Untaru, both an unknown and a newcomer, brings a mix of innocence and endearment as Alexandria without being too cute or annoying.  For someone that young and inexperienced, Untaru managed to hold her own against experienced performers, so

I still have a hard time with The Fall.  It is a little too mystical and avant-garde for me.  I feel it will at times try people's patience with its visuals and slow pace.  However, there's just enough, just enough, for me to not dislike it as much as I did the first time.  If you go into The Fall, have patience with it, enjoy the splendid visuals and costumes, watch Lee Pace's performance, and don't work hard to 'get it'.   



  1. For some reason I like movies that I don't fully "get". :P And I understood this one enough to enjoy it. I loved the visuals, and I agree, Lee Pace's performance was the highlight. Great review!

    1. Thanks.

      The visuals, costumes, and Pace were all strong, but I figure some people would get antsy and even irritated w/the film's (other) pace and the mystical elements.


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