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The Fall

A movie directed by Tarsem Singh

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An astonishing cinematic revelation -- gorgeous visuals, moving story -- one of the underappreciated gems of 2008!

  • Sep 20, 2008
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 approach to its theme The Fall deserves to be compared to Pan's Labyrinth, and really deserves the level of acclaim that film received. The film is an intensely personal project undertaken by its director Tarsem, who spent his own money over several years to make it, after studios refused to participate.

Critics, however, including those who have reviewed it here, have been divided on the overall merits of the film. Everyone agrees it is pretty, sometimes astonishingly pretty. Some critics think that the story is a bit lame -- that the story serves merely as an excuse to present breathtaking visuals. If that were true, it wouldn't be so bad, but not as good as it could be. I think such critics are missing the point.

What makes the film so remarkable to me is the interaction between the overall story and the story within. Just as, in The Princess Bride, it was the interaction between the story and the "metastory" that added to the charm and allowed the audience to suspend disbelief, it is the interaction between scenes in the hospital and scenes in Alexandria's imagination that add to the charm of this story. There are, however, significant differences between the approach of these two films.

As the man tells little Alexandria his story, it comes to vivid life in her imagination. It is very much a child's story -- told at the level of a six-year old girl whose world is already a combination of make-believe and reality, who has not fully distinguished between lies and truth. That fact alone may account for some of the reviews that treat the story as "hokey" and "undeveloped" -- it is supposed to be an improvised tale told to a gullible girl. That makes it very different from, say, "The Princess Bride" where the story within the story is supposed to be written down. What makes this film so rich, however, are the ways in which elements from the everyday life of the girl are integrated and transformed into the imaginative world of the story she hears. In fact, the film makes clear that what she sees as she listens is quite different than what he intends: he speaks of an Indian and a squaw, for example, and she envisions a man from India in a turban and a woman with a veil. As he tells the story, he makes mistakes and forgets things or includes elements she doesn't like and part of the delight of the film is the playful interaction that develops between them as she interjects and he alters his story and the characters of her imagination look confused for a moment.

What makes the story rich in my mind, and not at all simplistic, is that this naive little girl comes to see gradually that he is telling his own story and struggles with him to ensure a happy ending. I saw this film twice in theaters and it was even better the second time -- it is definitely one that I will treasure as part of my dvd collection.

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More The Fall reviews
review by . June 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** 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 …
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 . 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
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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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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