Thursday, March 11, 2010

Archive: 'The Fall'

Movie Review
The Fall (2008)

This is a movie where people will either leave the theater completely awestruck or dismissing it with a sneer on their face. Either way, there is no denying that it is a must-see simply because it is a one-time cinematic experience. "The Fall" is like nothing you have ever seen before. Director Tarsem ("The Cell") put his heart and soul into this movie, and it's a project he's been working on for many years spending millions of his own money on it. He went to tons of locations around the world throughout 28 different countries to create easily the year's most memorable and impressive cinematography. It's a film that begs to be seen, and let's just hope it gets remembered.

The movie begins "Once Upon a Time" in 1915 Los Angeles where a silent movie stunt man falls from a bridge while performing a dangerous stunt. He ends up in a nearly empty hospital alongside a young immigrant girl who he has no problem befriending. The stunt man is named Roy (the stunning Lee Pace from TV's "Pushing Daisies"), and the girl is named Alexandria (5-year-old Catinca Untaru). It so happens that she's fallen, as well, and together they are stuck inside the cramped, plain-colored corridors of the hospital. Roy begins telling her a story, though, and the two of them create their own world and are released into sprawling landscapes inside Alexandria's imagination. The verbal story is told by Roy, but what we see is the visual interpretation of Alexandria because events and characters inside the story change just as quickly as her mind can do the work.

The story is about the Black Bandit who is eventually played by Roy himself because Alexandria refuses to envision anybody else as such a hero. He's joined by other characters, as well, including a bomb-throwing Italian man, an African ex-slave, an Indian, and Charles Darwin who carries with him his pet monkey named Otis. These five diverse men all share the same goal of killing their sworn enemy, Governor Odius, who has all done them wrong. Odius strands them all on a desert island, but they manage to escape, and that is just the very beginning of their journey and of Roy's story.

It's unbelievable to me that such gorgeous scenery was created without the use of any computer-generation. Vast expanses of desert, extravagant palaces, spiraling staircases, and strange and elegant architecture are all just the beginning of what you'll see. Every single frame has something beautiful to offer, something breathtaking to look at, and there is just so much magnificent imagery throughout every single shot. The story Roy tells weaves in and out of reality, folding inward on itself, and expanding outward like an elaborate piece of origami all to create one entirely alluring universe. It's similar to that of "Pan's Labyrinth," and believe it or not, even more visually intoxicating.

Roy draws out telling the story because of his own personal motives. After witnessing that Alexandria is capable of stealing communion wafers from the chapel, he requests for her to retrieve morphine pills for him. After the love of his life leaves him for a movie star, Roy becomes depressed looking for a means to escape and contemplates suicide. He instead finds escape through the company and help of Alexandria. There is one particularly devastating scene where she tries desperately to keep him alive. While the movie is R-rated, the young Romanian actress Catinca Untaru is so pure, simple, and sweet, she carries an innocence of imagination and exploration throughout the sometimes violent story.

I could go on and on about how beautiful "The Fall" is, but it would probably be best for you to just stop reading right now and go out and witness it for yourself. This is Tarsem's act of creative love and insane genius, and it's a film that should not be soon forgotten. There is poetic circularity to his movie, a sort of transcendence that cannot be defeated. It tells an epic tale about the power of storytelling, and it is glorious.

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