Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Fall (2006)

Director: Tarsem (The Cell)

Even with David Fincher and Spike Jonze names attached to this movie, it didn't get as much recognition as I thought it deserved.  There are so many wondrous and amazing things in this film that I don't even know where to start.  And you know? They are real.  There were no computer effects used at all in this film.  Every color, every location, every bizarrely placed step and labyrinth, all exist somewhere in the 28 countries in which Tarsem filmed the movie.  I read nothing about this movie before I watched it because something told me that there was something there and I wanted to be a part of it in my imagination before the reality of it was shown to me, and yet the reality was just as breathtaking.

The story is set during World War I in a hospital in Los Angeles.  In one wing, several actors and stunt men.  In another, infants and children.  One child in particular, Alexandria, who is five and has immigrated from India with her mother and sister after the death of her father.  She is forced to pick oranges with other immigrants or starve.  Alexandria fell from a tree while working and broke her arm badly enough that she is staying in the hospital until it heals.  Alexandria, played by a young Romanian girl named Catinca Untaru who was discovered by Tarsem while playing at school, has captivated the staff at the hospital with her sweetness and mischief. 

The actress is the most endearing child actor I have ever seen in a film.  I cannot name a single one who is better at acting, better at bewitching, and the girl could not even speak one word of English until Tarsem discovered her.

Alexandria wanders around the hospital and runs into a stunt man who had a stunt go terribly wrong and is now paralyzed, temporary or maybe even permanantly, in his legs.  Roy, played by Lee Pace, is young and that stunt was his first acting job.  Now his career depends on his legs coming back to life.  To pass the time, Roy begins to tell Alexandria an epic adventure.  Here is where the magic begins, in the movie, and in the film making.

Roy begins a story about an Indian, or rather, a Native American and his squaw and what happened to them to bring the Indian to a deserted island with four other odd characters.  Only in our vision, we are shown the story through the eyes of the five year old girl from India.  Alexandria shows us a man from India although the words Roy uses tell a different story, which is part of the charm.

The story tells of Governor Odious who is a terrible man and has done harm to each of six misfits:  Charles Darwin the American Naturalist, The Indian, Luigi the Bomber, The Mystic, and The Bandit (whom Roy told to be Alexandria's father, but whom Alexandria turned into Roy himself at which point he becomes The Blue Bandit), and The Slave.  The epic adventure is populated by people in Alexandria's life:  orderlies, nurses, doctors, priests, other orange pickers whom we do not even see until the end of the movie, and people who visit Roy in the hospital.

Roy alters the story from cues he picks up from Alexandria as the tale moves along and the two become closer.  Until one day when Alexandria comes to Roy for another portion of the tale and finds him upset after a visit from a woman and two men whom Alexandria knows right away are important, famous men.  Roy's girlfriend has just left him for a famous actor who is wealthy and not possibly paralyzed for the rest of his life.

The story begins to take a different turn though it is very subtle as Roy plummets into thoughts of suicide and Alexandria is swept away in the make-believe and in his real life descent.

Catinca Untaru is brilliant.  I cannot say enough about her.  She is beautiful, talented, and has some air about her that sweeps the audience along with her into the fantasy.  If you don't break down in tears in the last half hour of the movie right along with her then you have a heart of stone!

Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies,Wonderfalls) does an excellent job as well.  He alternates back and forth between the bed-ridden patient and the dashing, heroic Blue Bandit with such believability that sometimes I forgot it was the same person.

But where the magic comes from is in the locations.  Tarsem used no CGI, no special effects in creating the scenary.  From the Infinite Staircase to the Blue City, every location is a real place.  Sand dunes, The Labyrinth of Dispair, even the mundane hospital were all real, all there, in every foreign and beautiful place the world possesses.  The Blue City of Jodhpur; The observatory that was the Labyrinth; even The Infinite Staircase is real, a reservoir in India considered cheap and tacky looking by the locals. They must be seen to be believed.  Right along with Alexandria, I laughed and cried and cannot think of another movie that moved me in such a way as this one.  It is everything from every childish fantasy to every grown-up heartache rolled into one movie.


  1. i want this on blu ray!

    it looked amazing on the big screen

  2. I still need to see this movie. I've had it in my to-watch pile for a long time, this review makes me bump it up the list. It also makes me want to watch The Cell again, which wasn't a great film, but I LOVED the visuals in it. =)