“The Fall” — A Mind-Bending Marvel

The visual splendor and breathtaking imagination of “The Fall” made me actually dream of some of the scenes, an experience I rarely have. Reality and fantasy blur into a magical realism that so dazzles the eyes, it suggests a psychedelic otherworldly, perhaps drug-induced journey. This movie is a magical, mystery tour–“The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen” meets “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”.

“The Fall” (2008) is two movies in one–and I don’t mean the story within a story that grounds the mind-blowing imagery. I mean the visual story: the sumptuous fantasy world of 1920’s Los Angeles. Filmed in Fiji, Bali, Brazil, India, South Africa, and thirteen other countries, I could have viewed this movie on “mute” and still have loved it! Captivating scenes of a butterfly-shaped island; a warrior shot so full of arrows he falls backwards on them like a bed of nails; an Escher-like staircase to nowhere; costumes with lotus-shaped headdresses and fan-shaped veils; russet-colored mountains with Crest-toothpaste aquamarine skies I thought were colorized; faces that melt into the mountainside, with faint, lingering shadows of eyes.

Genius for the understatement works its magic from the opening scene and continues through close-ups of a little girl’s hands, her vulnerability and innocence revealed by soft, seemingly boneless fingers. Footage of a massive elephant swimming in the ocean, with the cameramen shooting from underneath causes cognitive dissonance. The elephant had to be “animatronic”, not a living, breathing mastodon-sized pachyderm. But I was so wrong. Astounding, mind-boggling scenes trick both the eye and the mind.

But there is also an epic story to tell. Languishing in a hospital, stuntman Roy Walker (played by newcomer Lee Pace) is grievously injured from jumping off a bridge onto a horse far below. Not only is his body broken, but also his heart. To entertain the little girl Alexandra (the unforgettable Catinca Untaru, a six-year old with a soft whisper of a Romanian accent), Roy tells a fantastical tale of heroes, warriors, and a princess in scenes conjuring “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”. However, his ulterior motive is not to entertain a little girl in a body cast, but to coax her to steal morphine so he can “sleep”. A free-fall feast for the eyes, Roy’s drug-induced stupor is recreated by the stunning imagery of the tale-within-the-tale. Alexandra’s imagination becomes the catalyst for Roy’s story, and her purity and innocence ultimately overpower him. Roy is her perfect storyteller, she is his perfect listener, and together they imagine a new world–one of beauty and art…and heal.

Catinca Untaru is the heart and soul of this movie! She is so natural as the wide-eyed innocent child, I thought her dialogue was unscripted. Only the out-takes convinced me otherwise. Colin Watkinson, the cinematographer, in some sense shares the director role with Tarsem Singh because his portraits of art in motion are a parallel universe as addicting as the morphine that Roy craves. “The Fall” is, above all, visual storytelling. Without Wilkinson’s evocative visual effects, the narrative would not have flourished.

Unfortunately, due to delayed and poor distribution, “The Fall” did not reach the wider audience it deserves. With less than $4 million worldwide in gross receipts, this is a gross injustice! Treat yourself to this cinematic work of art and relish in its marvel and splendor!

View the trailer

6 comments on ““The Fall” — A Mind-Bending Marvel

  1. Ok Diana,

    I try not to blog on more than two glasses of vino…safe so far.
    I loved the movie and your review. My son & niece have seen the movie numerous times, and I was lucky enough to see the movie twice in the theater. The Fall is great on the “big screen”. I actually own it now, also. I have to disagree with you about watching it on mute, because I was so impressed with the sound! Sometimes I find myself overlooking the sound in movies, but this one made me aware of how much it adds to the movie. I read a review awhile back about the little girl’s acting not being realistic…hogwash! Having six children, I couldn’t believe how “unscripted” she was, totally authentic.
    This was a very beautiful movie that I’ll be watching many more times.

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed this movie, it is one of my favorites. There are passages in the film which need no narrative or characters, they are simply art in motion…a man gliding through water…the mazes you mentioned…you know I am a visually oriented person and I am transported when I see such beauty!
    Now you must find Ori Gersht, a photographer who is showing at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art…that is all I will say about that!

  3. I can’t wait to order this movie for my very visual, right-brained daughter! It’ll be so much fun for me, Ms. left-brained Virgo, to watch it with her, in her new little San Diego cottage. Thank you , Diana, for giving us what I know will be a memorable evening together!

  4. Pingback: My Top Ten Movies for 2011–Reviewed, Not Necessarily New | Unhealed Wound

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