I’m going full self-indulgent here and reviewing my favorite movie OF ALL TIMEThe Fall (2006), directed by Tarsem Singh.
Baddie – Unrequited Love
Lesson – There is apparently a way to make me cry. Congratulations, Tarsem Singh.
As I stated above, The Fall is my favorite movie of all time. It’s pretty much the perfect blend of things I love, with equal parts fairy tale, dramatic love story, Lee Pace, beautiful cinematography, writing, surrealism, and historical setting.
Set in the early 1920’s, a stuntman (Lee Pace) is in a hospital after attempting suicide via-stunt gone wrong. A little girl is also in the hospital, although she is there because she broke her arm working in an orange grove. She befriends Roy and he, consumed by depression, finds a small speck of humanity left to be decent to this small girl, and they begin to tell a story together. The story has definitive echoes to Roy’s actual story, and this becomes more clear as it progresses. The girl, Alexandria, of course, has no inkling of the relationship between the two and gets hopelessly sucked into the fantasy.
The story itself centers around a bandit seeking revenge, heroes mythical and real, and Odious, the evil general. It turns out that Roy is a lover scorned, as his lady selected the lead actor for whom Roy does stunts instead of Roy. It damages him so much that he attempts the suicide. The bandit, played by Roy, is given a second chance with his lady within the story, although Odious (Sinclair, the real life love-thief) attempts to thwart him at every turn.
Now, this in itself might be a good movie, but the parts that really drew me in are the nuanced developments that happen during an otherwise standard fairy tale. For one, the fairy tale echoes Roy’s struggle to logically defend staying alive or not. He loses this battle many times, and his descents back into depression are made even more heartbreaking as they are echoed in the story, and as he cons Alexandria into stealing drugs for him so that he might once again give up on life. In fact, as the story climaxes so does Roy’s desire to die, and it is at that point that Alexandria and I both cry our eyes out. He starts to ruthlessly kill off everyone in his fictional story while Alexandria begs him to stop, sacrificing them to his grief, so much has he abandoned hope of feeling okay again. His selfishness takes over and he destroys the story that made Alexandria so happy. Some characters are given more dignified deaths, while others fall willy-nilly to Roy’s hapless whims.
On a more technical note, it occurred to me after a few viewings that Roy’s character takes on some attributes of what Hollywood might consider a female role. He is maternal with Alexandria for parts of the film, but he is also so consumed by a superficial romance that he can think of little else, and the plot revolves around a woman who isn’t even necessarily good for him. He’s rendered invalid, although his character is a strong, brave stuntsman, and confined to a wheelchair or worse the entire film (excepting when he’s in the fairy tale). The woman, by the way, who I would normally complain is a plot device, is superficial and aloof because she is superficial and aloof. She opts for the movie star over Roy, and she is cold and distant when she visits him in the hospital, making it very clear that the feelings aren’t reciprocated. Again, arguably it could be said that this is also a trope, and perhaps it’s because I’m biased for the film, but I’m alright with it in this context. Her counterpart within the fairy tale is false and impetuous, but not totally traitorous, because she is partially a figment of Roy’s imagination. Alexandria, on the other hand, sees right through the ruse from the start.
I can’t say enough about the cinematography of this film. I think it is fairly evident in Singh’s other works, Mirror Mirror and The Immortals, that the man has a great eye for framing, color, and contrast. The Fall is definitely not an exception, and everything is meticulous. There’s great juxtaposition between the hospital scenes and the fairy tale, which takes place largely in the desert and extravagant Middle Eastern settings. There are transitions that would make you weep with joy. The costuming evokes a lot of that surrealism I spoke of before, but it is beautiful, bizarre, and impeccable, done by the late Eiko Ishioka. She worked on all of Singh’s films, but also did the costuming for 1992’s Dracula.
So basically, the moral of this story is that you should watch The Fall, and then promptly watch it again. Especially if you’re a Lee Pace fan (he’s my Hollywood husband) because he is really quite great in this movie.