Directed by Tarsem Singh
Los Angeles. Once upon a time.
Can storytelling save your life?
The Fall is set in a 1920s Californian hospital where movie stuntman Roy Walker is recovering from a fall that has left him paraplegic. Fellow patient Alexandria, a young girl who is also recovering from a fall, befriends him, and Roy begins to tell her the story of six mythical heroes on a quest to kill their common enemy, the hideous Governor Odious. Through Alexandria’s vivid imagination we are transported to exotic worlds and surreal encounters as the six comrades-in-arms begin their heroes’ journey for salvation.
But whose lives are the heroes really saving?
This is lushly layered filmmaking as Director Tarsem Singh juxtaposes the routine and sterile confinement of the hospital ward against the stunning vastness of the imagined worlds. There are glasshouses and gardens, temples and deserts, banished heroes, Indians, slaves, Charles Darwin, lost loves, bandits, swimming elephants, masked heroes, flaming trees, mystics, dangerous missions, tented caravans, kidnapped princesses, a palace in the middle of a lake, a blue city, whirling dervishes. Revenge and redemption. Storytelling.
But storytelling is as much about the orator as the tale. Fairytales can be dark and storytelling can be dangerous. Heroes can be flawed. As the tale unfolds, we begin to realise that the line between fiction and reality is a blurry one, and there is more to Roy’s fantastical tale and his reason for telling it. The “fall” may be yet to come.
The cinematography in The Fall is exquisite, shot over 26 locations in 18 countries and with no special effects. The semi-classical score by French composer Krishna Levy adds a beautiful emotional intensity to the action. Catinca Untaru is mesmerising as the young Alexandria, who is the real hero of the story. Lee Pace as Roy carries enough vulnerability and pathos to feel sympathy for his character, despite the growing sense that we, along with Alexandria, are being manipulated for a desperate ulterior motive that is slowly and shockingly being revealed. By the time we understand it, we also understand that this is a fateful encounter; each needs the other. Both have experienced the real world and its physical limits. Both have experienced loss and heartbreak. Both are looking for a way out of the pain. And while Roy is telling the story, it is through Alexandria’s wild imagination and wilful determination that we are drawn, along with Roy, to the possibility of a happy ending.
But doesn’t the real magic of storytelling happen when the reader or viewer makes the story their own?
I’m in love with The Fall. Unashamedly, eyes wide, mouth open, sitting on the edge of my seat, gasping out loud in love. It is beautiful, sad and moving, visually sumptuous, magical film-making and storytelling that reminds us that imagination is life.
“What a mystery, this world.”