“Are you trying to save my soul?”
Tarsem Singh’s adventure fantasy film The Fall (2006) is an ode to visual arts, colours and costumes, staying true to his debut The Cell (2000), which introduced us to his stylised directing techniques. Largely self-financed in order to exercise complete creative control, the Indian director based his screenplay partly on Valeri Petrov’s film Yo Ho Ho (1981).
Set in a Los Angeles hospital in 1915, two patients meet by chance, seemingly having only one thing in common; a fall. Depressed stuntman Roy (Lee Pace) has fallen off a bridge, while 5-year-old Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) has fallen off an orange tree. He fell hard for a woman, the girl will fall for his white lies.
Under the influence of morphine and heartbreak, Roy starts a Scheherazade-style story of five bandits and the evil governor Odius. His young friend becomes a true part of it, using the story to escape into an unexplored world of fantasy. The balance between reality and imagination soon flickers, while an adventure of mystical creatures and enigmatic figures unfolds, based on the two leads’ interpretation of their surroundings.
Shot over four years in over eighteen impressive locations, the cinematography by Colin Watkinson and the stunning costumes by Eiko Ishioka will reignite your visual senses and make you reconsider the symbolism of colours. The use of CGI is minimal and the mind-blowing performance of young Romanian actress Untaru will leave you speechless. Lee Pace and the rest of the cast also demand attention, seamlessly blending comedy with death with each step they take deeper into the labyrinth of the narrative.
On first thought, the plot may not seem to have much to offer, and you will often find yourself wondering if things have taken a turn for the abstract. But keep in mind that this is a story within a story, told by a bitter stuntman and brought to life by an innocent girl; it’s bound to be messy, but slowly leads to catharsis. The ending pays tribute to the silent cinema of the early 20th century, and if you enjoyed Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988), you won’t be disappointed by this lesser-known film.
Also, note how the promotional poster for this film was based on Salvador Dali’s painting Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as an Apartment (1935). This film will steal your breath, just like the impressively lavish painting. Even the violent parts are transformed into stunning imagery. And maybe, just for that, it is worth watching.