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ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR HEART
The Fall (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
The Fall (DVD)
Advantages: Mesmerising, beautifully filmed, great performances
Disadvantages: Not widely known
Set in 1920's California 'The Fall' is about the relationship between a Hollywood stunt man and a little girl both in hospital after suffering accidents. Alexandria the young daughter of foreign migrants hired to pick fruit in the California's growing fruit industry is recovering from a broken arm after a fall. She befriends Roy Walker, a movie stunt man who has been left paralyzed after a fall off a bridge while filming an early silent western. As they become friends Roy agrees to tell Alexandra some stories to pass the time. One of them a magical fantasy involves six unlikely heroes each with their own special abilities who are on a quest to hunt down and kill the evil and corrupt governor of a mystical land, the aptly named Governor Odious. As he tells her the story the girl imagines the events in her mind. She gives faces to the characters using the people she has seen and met in the hospital. However Roy's motives for telling Alexandra the story and gaining her friendship are not wholly innocent and soon he persuades her to find and bring to him morphine tablets kept in the hospital pharmacy if she wants him to finish the story. Roy unable to accept his paralysis and believes that now he may never win the affections of a young actress he loves losing her to the leading man of the film he worked on. He sees his only option as suicide wishing to end his life but needs thelittle girl's help to do this.
Can Alexandra's influence and the mystical tale he is creating for her stop him from taking such a drastic action?
This is not an ordinary film, the mixing of real life and fantasy is beautifully done, in many ways although setting a much less darker tone it reminded me of Guillermo del Toro's 'Pan's Labyrith'. Beautiful costumes, vibrant colours and spectacular landscapes of the girl's imagined story provide a sharp contrast to the more light and dark, rather drab surrounding of the hospital.
The script is full of imagination, the band of heroes that Roy creates for Alexandra are not your usual kind of heroes. The leader of this motley crew is the Black Bandit, a mysterious outlaw who rather in the mould of Zorro (and sporting a very similar disguise) fights on the side of the poor and the oppressed. The brains of the group is provided by none other than Charles Darwin, yes THE Charles Darwin the famous scientist, wearing a multicoloured feather overcoat and a bowler hat. Darwin is always accompanies by his pet spider monkey who he converses with at every opportunity. The brawn is provided by Otto Benga a fierce African Warrior, a dead shot with bow and arrow and a mysterious Indian swordsman whose name we never discover. The next member of the party is Luigi an expert on anything to do with guns and explosives. Finally the most enigmatic of all of them is the mute Mystic who can use the forces of nature to help him and his comrades defeat the governor's army of black clad warriors. Each character has his own reason for hating Odious and they come together through the common desire to finally put his evil rule to an end.
Visually the film is stupendous the fantasy scenes in particular has a mesmerising quality to them. This probably has a lot to do with the director's background in commercials and music videos. The use of light and colours really creates the fantastical landscape out of the arid and barren South African locations that were used. But unlike many directors with similar background and sensibilities this film is not only about style, the plot is a sensitive and quite moving description of sadness and despair counterbalanced by hope and innocence.
I've already alluded to visual stylistic similarities between this film and 'Pan's Labyrinth' and one other common feature is a little girl being at the centre of the story. Cantica Untaru playing Alexandra is delightful in the role. She is adorable. Curious, mischievous and kind natured one can see why Roy is charmed by her. She was only aged nine at the time she made this film and her performance is so convincing I hope we will see more of her on screen in the near future. Another pleasure of this film was to come across so many talent actors that I'd never heard of. Lee Pace who plays the unfortunate Roy was not totally unknown to me having played Ned in a rather inventive TV series Pushing Daisies from a few years ago. In this film he gives a very strong, compelling and nuanced performance and I look forward to seeing him in the new Hobbit film. The interplay between Lee Pace and the girl Catinca Untaru is both charming, funny at times and yet has truly sinister and dark undertones. Comic touches are added by an English actor Leo Bill in the role of Darwin.
The film has a haunting quality to it, the scenes at the hospital while being realistic are seen through the girl's eyes and take on a slightly stranger darker tone. One example is when walking the corridors at night she witnesses a mother crying at being told by a doctor of the death of her young son, she sees all this through a window and there is no detail of the conversation apart from the screams and cries of the mother, which coupled with her lack of understanding of the situation make it in her eyes a scary and surreal experience. It is these small vignettes in the course of the film that stay with you long after the film has finished.
As well as the fantasy element in the centre of the story, which itself closely follows the mounting darkness of the real events that take place in the hospital there are other subplots that feed in to the narrative. The exploitation of the migrant workers in the commercial orchards of California in the 1920's is paralleled to the exploitation of the minor players of another of California's burgeoning industries the Hollywood film industry. There is also a tale of unrequited love and one of loss all of which help to add depth and impact to the story.
I truly believe this film to be an overlooked gem, this could easily have been something that Terry Gilliam could have put his name to and I think Tarsem Singh's directorial style should be perfect for his next project 'The Immortals' a tale of Theseus battling the ancient Greek Titans.
'The Fall' will make you smile, fill you with wonder at its grandiose spectacle and it might even make you cry. What more do you want from a film?
CAST & TECHNICAL INFORMATION
Catinca Untaru ...Alexandria
Justine Waddell ...Nurse Evelyn / Sister Evelyn
Lee Pace ...Roy Walker / Black Bandit
Kim Uylenbroek ...Doctor / Alexander the Great
Robin Smith ...Luigi / One Legged Actor
Leo Bill ...Darwin / Orderly
Jeetu Verma ...Indian / Orange Picker
Marcus Wesley ...Otta Benga / Ice Delivery Man
Julian Bleach ...Mystic / Elderly Patient
Daniel Caltagirone...Sinclair / Governor Odious
Aiden Lithgow ...Alexander's Messenger
Sean Gilder ...Walt Purdy
Ronald France ...Otto
Andrew Roussouw ...Mr. Sabatini
Michael Huff ...Dr. Whitaker
Grant Swanby ...Father Augustine
Emil Hostina ...Alexandria's Father / Bandit
Original Music by Krishna Levy
Runtime: 117 min
Directed by Tarsem Sing (as Tarsem). Writers Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, Tarsem Singh and Valeri Petrov (1981 screenplay Yo Ho Ho as Valery Petrov).
'The Fall' on DVD can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £4.97 + free delivery at the time of writing this review.
Summary: Stylish drama with fantasy elements