Wish my daddy told me stories like these.
Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is a very successful stuntman in Hollywood during the 1920’s. He’s been in plenty of movies but has found himself in a hospital, after a suicide attempt, where he rots his life away wondering just when he’s going to die, how he’s going to die, and where exactly that damn morphine is. He may have found all of the answers in a young girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who not only hangs out with him, but listens to him as he tells fantasy stories about pirates, gypsies, swords, guns, and all sorts of wild and adventurous things. But there’s more than just fantasy in the stories he tells, and together, they both find the solutions to all of their problems, no matter how different each one’s may be from the other.
Everybody knows that Tarsem Singh is one of those guys who knows what’s beautiful and what isn’t. Every one of his flicks (yes, even Mirror Mirror) all feel like fully-realized portraits that could have been painted by either Dali or Van Gogh, and inspired more and more people to take a brush, a can of paint, and a clear surface and start getting down to business, art style. However, the same can’t be said for his stories and even though I feel like we haven’t seen all that this guy has been able to do when somebody gives him a script, a story, and a huge budget, he’s still not there yet. Give him some time, and he will be but as for right now, the guy’s got some homework.
No matter what type of bad stuff I say about Singh’s writing, I cannot deny that this movie isn’t a piece of art, given to us on a silver platter for over two hours. Then again, almost any film nowadays is considered “beautiful” or “artful” because of what every person on the face of the universe can do with a keyboard, a screen, and a couple of clicks. But not Singh. Nope, this guy knows what actual-beauty looks like in a world like ours and not only is it great to see somebody embrace that fact, but show it off in the best way possible. Can some of it be considered showwy and too much?
Yes and no.
Yes, because, let’s face it, the only reason this story is told the way it is, is just so Singh can show everybody how huge his imagination is, and how much pretty colors his eyes can see. Directors like Terrence Malick and Ang Lee have the same eyes and same ideas when it comes to letting their visuals tell a story, but they aren’t as obvious as Singh is here. The guy wants everybody to see what he sees, and as nice as that may sound, it does seem rather indulgent at points, considering the story didn’t need to be told this way. Some may agree with me on that aspect, and some may not, but regardless, Singh does show off a bit too much.
Then again, it’s no for the sole reason that this movie is incredibly beautiful in every sense of the word. You get plenty of colors showing up when you least expect them to; visual tricks that you didn’t think were even possible; and a couple of large landscape shots that make me feel pissed I didn’t at least check them out on a big screen or anything else that’s larger than my 1999 Sony television. Or at least I think it’s Sony. Anyway, the movie is eye-candy for everybody who cares to seek their eyes on this thing and I have to give credit to Singh for showing us what you can do when you’re inspired, have some money to burn, and at least feel passionate about what you show on the screen. Once again, it doesn’t all work and seems a tad like over kill at some points, but if anything, Sing knows how to come up with a pretty shot.
Visuals aside, the movie doesn’t have a compelling story but at least it tries to.
Though the story at the center of the movie is very straight-forward and simple, Singh tries to go one step further with these wildly imaginative, over-the-top stories of fantasy and whimsy, and they more or less feel like manipulative opportunities for Singh to just break loose with what he’s got at his disposal. Which isn’t to say I didn’t mind these stories, they just to be a bit old, is all. It all started off perfectly by giving us a great deal of imagination, fantasy, fun, and humor to play with, and had me terribly excited as if the rest of the flick was going to be like this just about the whole way through, but it starts to lose its edge.
Somewhere along the lines, it seemed as if Singh, just like his main-narrator, had a strong start with the story he wanted to tell, then just lost all sorts of originality and decided to improvise his way through a story that could have touched almost everybody who ever heard it or saw it. The improv-idea of story telling actually doesn’t work and seems like a cheap excuse for Singh not to be able to come up with any spectacular ideas that may have kept us more glued to what was going to happen to this “story” and this “real-life story.”
Although they’re saddled with something of a lame story, Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru are very good in each of their roles, whether they’re together or not, but too many of their scenes are dedicated to them just goofing-around with one another, getting along just fine, having fun, telling stories, and occasionally, getting a tad serious so one person can get a bit high for the hell of it. These scenes are sometimes good, and sometimes stupid because they go on and on without any point or message at the end of the road. There’s just a bunch of metaphors and foreshadowing between these two and whether or not Singh actually thinks this how people talk and tell stories in real life, is all up to him. However, it’s also up to me to tell him that this isn’t really how people tell stories and if you have a script that’s along the line of works like Aaron Sorkin, or Quentin Tarantino, or David Mamet, and can get away with i- then, good for you. But Tarsem, my friend, you just can’t.
Stick with making pretty images.
Consensus: Tarsem Singh definitely shows his imagination in beautiful shadings with the Fall, it’s just a shame that the story doesn’t hook quite as effectively as these said images do.
6 / 10
Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au
I have to say, I didn’t know who the director was before watching this film and it seems that, looking at your review, that helped me love it. The stories Roy tells that are visualised, I find are totally in their element at their most over the top and most grandiose. This is a man telling stories, imagination has no bounds (jTerry Gilliam will tell you that!) and when someone is telling a story from imagination, there’s no such thing as too much, at least not to me. I genuinely feel that the message that this film is saying has lots to do with fantasy and how we use fantasy to deal with our problems. whether we use it to manipulate a small child, whether we use it to escape our own turmoil, which was definitely the case for Alexandria. She needed those stories, she needed to BE the fantasy in order to deal with what she was going through (even though she wouldn’t have been aware of this) and you remember the scene when Alexandria is at her most upset? That was heartbreaking because even her own imagination has become a place where she can’t comfort herself and hide in. That’s just my two pence! For all it’s flaws (I’m totally not saying it’s perfect) I think it’s narrative is deeply embedded in exploring the nature of children’s fantasy and has a lot more to it than meets the surface. I always appreciate an honest reviewer though! 🙂
Hi Dan, nice review. Personally, I love this film. It’s probably on my top 10…mainly because of the artistic quality of the film. This is the one film in which I would describe Singh as a true “auteur.” He degraded into hollywood crap territory soon afterward. There are some continuity issues in the fall, but it’s all about a little girl’s imagination. I especially loved the beginning scene set to the Beethoven song. However, some of my friends who saw it on a small screen television hated it. Watching this film on a big screen television is a must. I guess I looked at the film as an “emotion” expressed visually rather than an actual film.
I loved The Fall when I saw it a few years ago. What a beautiful film. I can see what you’re saying though about Singh being a show off. However I didn’t find the story to be as simple as you did. I thought there was interesting commentary about a man battling his own demons and using storytelling as a way to help address them. Outside of that he grappled with being a role model for the girl, despite being a flawed individual. Their friendship and their fantastic adventures helped them both through a difficult time in their lives.
The first time I saw The Fall, the visuals hooked me, but like you I wasn’t too sure about the story itself. So I gave it another shot. Repeat viewings have got me to see this film in different ways, and I adore the relationship that forms between the two leads. Sure that relationship could have been stronger, more powerful, but the visuals are something that can’t be knocked in film these days when any other director would have settled for green screening all of these epic scenes.