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The Fall

A movie directed by Tarsem Singh

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Tarsem's crowning achievement.

  • Jun 23, 2011
**** out of ****

It's so typical of most critics to attack a film that shows them something that they have never seen before. Critics claim that they understand what the term "art" really means, but is this so true? The purpose of art is to divide opinions. Or at least I believe that is one of its purposes. So maybe it is understandable that a very large amount of critics would dislike a film as bewildering as "The Fall". But is the purpose of art not to also entertain through awe?

"The Fall", which is filmmaker Tarsem's first film since his debut film, "The Cell", is often noted as a work of high self-indulgence. Director Tarsem largely financed the film himself, shot footage in over twenty countries, and paid his performers in a peculiarly outlandish fashion (by day, and with equality). He did this all in four years. And I'm glad he did.

There are good films, and great films, where I can say "I've seen that before", but still admire the re-imagining or inspiration taken from wherever I first saw the material. "The Fall" certainly draws influence from all over the place, from common literature (I spotted some solid references to Homer's "The Odyssey") to fairy tale lore. To me, this is why I see movies; to see something more. This is one of the first times where I can honestly say that there are things, within this film, that I have never seen before; and shall never see again unless I watch the film again, which I definitely plan to do.

The film begins with a beautiful black-and-white sequence depicting a rescue, although we don't really know the relevance of the scene unless we've seen the entire film before. There's something to look out for. We then shift our sights to a hospital, where we meet a sweet little girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru). He has dropped a note for a nurse to read, but it has landed in the wrong hands. She finds it being read by a bed-ridden patient named Roy (Lee Pace). After this chance encounter, Roy decides to tell Alexandria a little story out of the "kindness of his heart".

The story involves a fantasy, in which five heroes (The Ex-Slave, the Indian, the Explosives Expert, Charles Darwin, and The Masked Bandit) go on an epic journey to bring down a similar enemy, who is Governor Odious. The governor has done something life-changing, for the negative, when it comes to each character; although the Masked Bandit's goal is to reclaim his love.

As the plot thickens within the dream-like fantasy, Roy asks Alexandria favors; such as getting him morphine to ease him of his emotional and physical pain forevermore. Why Roy is in such a vulnerable state, I will not say, but there is a scene where Alexandria talks him out of this negative and dark choice, and it's quite sweet.

The story is another about the innocence and vulnerability of children. I'm always open to these kinds of tales, and "The Fall" tells its own little rendition brilliantly. I loved this film. It was fun to watch, imaginative, and a fine showcase for Tarsem's talent. This is pure filmmaking; little screen-writing. However, I still found the story effective and even beautiful, on an emotionally resonant level of thinking. It would appear that Tarsem himself is a child underneath it all, but what imaginative men are not?

Every shot is something new, and no, I'm not over-exaggerating. Tarsem truly cares about the look of his film, and I have to say, he knows surrealism and dream-like qualities quite well. The film is extraordinary, perhaps, solely for the beautiful visuals on display. There is a point to making it, and it is so we can see these images. Yet there is a story to tell. There are characters to like. And there is good acting on display. "The Fall" is a true original, and it does so many new things, that I may have to see it again. Not only so that I can observe the trickery used in the special effects (which were all traditional, mind you), but also so I can feel the emotional impact once more. Always a pleasure to do so; always a pleasure to experience the beauty, the horror, and the brilliance of a film such as "The Fall".

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More The Fall reviews
Quick Tip by . October 14, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This quick tip is tied to my list of movies driven by strong child actors/characters.      Catinca Untaru was 11 during the filming for this brilliant movie.  She stands toe to toe (there is a silly pun here if you've seen the film) with veteran Lee Pace to create an amazing fable that wows and crushes.      More than one reviewer has said that Ms Untaru wasn't acting her part, she was living it.  I sincerely hope it is the former because …
review by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   The Fall is a tale of magical realism told by a suicidal stuntman to a young migrant girl as both convalesce in a Los Angeles hospital.      Alexandria (11 or 12) throws a letter out a window—it is intended for a nurse. The wind blows it into Roy’s bed (Roy is in his early 20s). The pair meet when she goes to retrieve the letter.      He apparently injured his back doing a nearly impossible stunt, so he is bed ridden. Alexandria broke …
review by . November 04, 2009
This is probably the most visually intriguing movie that I have seen in years, if not ever. This fact is quite remarkable considering that the director Tarsem Singh has hardly used any special effects, but has rather opted to rely heavily on imaginative costumes and elaborate and exotic locations which were enhanced with the stunning cinematography. The movie tells a story of a 1920s stuntman who falls off a horse while filming a particularly daring scene. While recovering in a hospital, he befriends …
review by . September 20, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
A troubled young man, recuperating from a suicidal stunt and a broken heart, meets a precocious little girl with a broken arm. He begins to tell her a story, but is secretly intending to use her to get morphine that will allow him to take his own life.     The Fall is one of those rare films that is both a unique work of cinematic art and a crowd-pleasing gem. It is both beautiful to look at and has depth that is not apparent on a first viewing. For beauty and depth and for its …
review by . March 28, 2009
THE FALL is one of the more stunningly beautiful cinematic works to be created in recent years. Vibrant young director Tarsem Singh, born in India and trained at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, produced, directed and wrote (with Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, and Valery Petrov) this magical tale that blends fantasy, illusion, dreams, and altered reality with one of the more touching stories imaginable. The film takes many risks and for this viewer they all work. With only one other …
review by . July 09, 2008
I remember the days when I had stories read to me. I remember how it made me feel. Me and about twenty other kids would gather at the teacher's feet, and I would actually imagine the story unfolding as she read aloud. I think we all have those memories buried somewhere within, those wonderful moments when the spoken word transcends mere speech and becomes a definite vision. Tarsem's "The Fall" works in much the same way, not only for the characters, but also for the audience; reality and fantasy …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Roger Ebert proclaimed it "one of the most extraordinary films I've ever seen," and there's no denying the avalanche of wild images inThe Fall: grand castles, desert vistas, elephants swimming in the open ocean. Commercial and music-video director Tarsem has piled these visions into an elaborate remake of an obscure Bulgarian film, Yo Ho Ho, which is anchored in (but by no means limited to) a quiet hospital during the silent-movie era. A stunt man (Lee Pace) is laid up with leg injuries, and an eye-popping black-and-white prologue (utterly mystifying while we're watching it) tells us how he got here. Depressed over his disability and a recent lost love, he plans suicide, but is temporarily derailed by the inquisitive friendship of a little girl (Catinca Untaru), to whom he tells wild stories of adventurers and princesses. We see these stories, which is where the dizzying visuals come in. This movie probably won't inspire many lukewarm responses: either you'll fall madly for this paean to storytelling magic, or you'll be suspicious about the parade of pretty pictures, which tend to have a magazine-layout sheen. The movie certainly has more soul than Tarsem's yucky previous feature,The Cell, and the scenes between Pace and Untaru (who scores an 11 on the cuteness scale) are genuinely charming. The director actually put a considerable amount of his own money into the production (which shot in over 20 countries), and whether you buy his ...
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Cast: Lee Pace
Director: Tarsem Singh
DVD Release Date: September 9, 2008
Runtime: 117 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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