Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Fall (2006 film)

Directed by Tarsem Singh and written by Singh, Dan Gilroy, and Nico Soultanakis, The Fall is the story of a young girl in the 1920s who meets an injured stuntman in a hospital as he tells her a story filled with adventure and fantasy. Based on a 1981 screenplay called Yo Ho Ho by Valeri Petrov, the film is a mix whimsical fantasy mixed in with real-life situations as it plays up Singh’s unique visual style. Starring Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, and Leo Bill. The Fall is sprawling yet mesmerizing film from Tarsem Singh.

It’s 1920s Los Angeles as a young girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is currently recovering from a broken arm as she likes to play around the hospital. When trying to give Nurse Evelyn (Justine Waddell) a note, the note flies away and lands into the lap of an injured stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace). Roy meets Alexandria as he briefly tells the story of Alexander the Great in reference to her name. Alexandria would visit Roy again as he tells a much grander story about six different men all vowing vengeance against an evil tyrant named Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). The six different men would go on an adventure as they each carry special skills to defeat Odious’ men as they also capture his bride (Justine Waddell) as one of the men (Lee Pace) falls for the woman.

While Alexandria continues to be amazed by Roy’s story, he only continues to tell if Alexandria would get him pills as he learns about his health which only puts him in despair. When trying to retrieve more pills for Roy, Alexandria tries to help only for something bad to happen. Roy reveals why he needs the pill as he tries to finish the story for Alexandria as she helps him try to end it.

The film is a mixture of fantasy and reality as it is about a stuntman telling a young girl a story of adventure that spans through various locations around the world. Yet, the simple story of a man telling a story to a young Romanian girl, whose mother and daughter lives in the Californian orange groves, in hopes she can give him things to deal with his own personal issues. Throughout the film, characters that are seen in the 1920s period would be seen as characters in this fantasy story as it would add to the real-life feelings for both the girl and stuntman. The script has a nice way to balance the fantasy and 1920s sequence though by the third act, things get messy and a bit melodramatic despite a very good ending.

Tarsem Singh’s direction is truly a marvel to watch in the way he presents the film in its two different storylines. While the film starts off in a black-and-white sequence in the making of a stunt, the 1920s period has a lush yet more intimate look that is very lively in its approach to telling the story. For the fantasy story, Singh’s direction is truly hypnotic as he presents the film on a wide canvas that rivals the work of such filmmakers as Terrence Malick and Godfrey Reggio. There is a whimsical charm to that storyline while it’s all about the adventure that features large scene with wide depth of field shots and battle sequences. While Singh creates an amazing visual presentation that is gorgeous to look at. It does feel a bit flat due to its messy third act where things become a bit confusing and a bit sentimental. Singh does give the film a fitting payoff that gives both storylines a chance to have some sort of resolution while he creates a worthwhile yet visually-spellbinding film.

Cinematographer Colin Watkinson does an amazing job with the film‘s photography from the broad yet naturalistic look to many of the film‘s fantasy scenes to the more intimate yet lush look for the 1920s period and the opening black-and-white sequence. Editors Robert Duffy and Spot Welders do a very good job as they take a pretty straightforward approach to the pacing while seamlessly moving back and forth to the sequences while using stylized cuts for some of the film’s action sequences.

Production designer Ged Clarke, with set decorators Riccardo Pugliese and Cynthia Sleiter, does a brilliant job with the set pieces created for the fantasy scenes as well as creating a dream-like yet nostalgic look for the 1920s scenes. Costume designer Eiko Ishioka does a superb job with the stylish costumes for both the 1920s scenes and the fantasy sequences, the latter of which featured more lavish styles of clothing. Visual effects supervisors Alain Carsoux and Tom Sparks do some nice work with the visual effects that is used for some of the action sequences in the fantasy scenes.

Sound designers Vincent Guillon and Gerard Hardy do an excellent job with the sound work to exemplify the wondrous locations the characters are in in the fantasy sequences to the intimate yet raucous 1920s scenes that includes layers of voice-over narration. Krishna Levy’s score is wonderful for its low-key yet plaintive score filled with light-hearted string arrangements and harps along with the use of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony for some of the dramatic moments of the film.

The casting by Daniel Hubbard and Christa Schamberger is outstanding as it features a great ensemble cast that includes small appearances from Julian Breach as an elderly patient who befriends Alexandria as well as a mystic as well as Kim Uylenbroek as the doctor and Alexander the Great. Other notable characters who play dual roles include Leo Bill as an orderly and, in the fantasy sequence, Charles Darwin along with Jeetu Verma as a heartbroken warrior, Marcus Wesley as the ice delivery man/African warrior, Robin Smith as Roy’s friend/dynamite explosives guy, and Daniel Caltagirone as the villainous Odious and Roy’s actor rival Sinclair. Justine Waddell is very good in a trio of roles as Roy’s old girlfriend, the kindly nurse, and the woman that the bandit falls for.

Catinca Untaru is excellent as Alexandria, a lively child who is into fantasy while being the resourceful girl for the lonely yet depressed Roy. Lee Pace is great as Roy/the mysterious bandit as he brings a reserved though eerie performance as the melancholic Roy. For the masked bandit, Pace brings a whimsical though mysterious performance as a man seeking vengeance for the loss of his brother as well as to help the other bandits stop the man who had put them through hell.

The Fall is an ambitious yet charming film from Tarsem Singh that features a lot of great ideas and a pretty engaging story. While it’s definitely the kind of film that features a lot of broad ideas that isn’t seen much in a lot films. It is a movie that truly exemplify who Singh is in terms of a visual artist. While the screenplay does lack some strength in its third act, it does have something to keep the audience interest despite its shortcomings. In the end, The Fall is a spectacular film from Tarsem Singh.

Tarsem Singh Films: (The Cell) - (Immortals) - (Untitled Snow White Project)

© thevoid99 2011


blahblahblah Toby said...

you've managed to sum up my feelings on this one entirely. a film that is so completely beautiful to look at that it's shortcomings seem so small in comparison. more people should see this film.

thevoid99 said...

I agree. I was a bit disappointed during the third act but it sort of won me over with its ending.

It's not perfect but it's got visuals that aren't really seen in films these days (unless it's a Terrence Malick film). I like Tarsem's ambition and I hope he can do more films like this. What he needs is a co-writer that can balance a story out without hampering what Tarsem wanted to do visually.