See The Fall! Like, right now!

So you may have noticed, between my rather high ranking of it (I decided to go back and leapfrog it over Wall-E to my number two film of 2008- yeah, I'm allowed to do that), and my wish that it had gotten 10 Academy Award nominations, that I'm a pretty big fan of a little movie called The Fall.

I thought I might, on the eve of the Oscars, try and explicate why. The Fall is a film about an injured early-twentieth-century stuntman in a hospital, telling a fairy-tale adventure story to a little girl who's broken her arm. The story, about six exotic travelers seeking revenge upon a villain named Governor Odious, is depicted in a series of lavishly stylish visions.

Now, personally, that decription was enough to buy a ticket- I was intrigued by director Tarsem (Singh)'s visual flair in The Cell, even if I found the film itself a little ridiculous, and I love fairy-tales, Lee Pace (the stuntman, and the star of Pushing Daisies) and the silent-movie era. And I was dissapointed on none of those counts.

But The Fall is much, much more than just pretty to look at.


Every now and then there are certain films that hit you in the right mood, or the right moment in your life to affect you in a certain way, and The Fall is one of those films. I wasn't immediately overwhelmed after I say it in late May 2008- I liked it alot, but it develops slowly, and some of the little girl's lines are hard to catch (Catinca Untaru is from Romania, and The Fall is her first film).

It wasn't until the second and third times through, on DVD, that I really started to love it. The interplay of the real world and the fantasy are brilliantly subtle- the six heroes of the story all appear in the real world, but not in a sort of Wizard Of Oz "And you were there!" sort of way. The ordlerly wearing protective gear to go in the X-Ray room becomes a model for Odious's evil henchmen, a toy elephant become the way for the adventurers to get off an island (after no ship appears, because Alexandria, the girl, decides she doesn't want to hear a pirate story).

It's not only a great story, it becomes a film about the reasons we tell stories and the things they about the storyteller. Roy (Pace) didn't exactly botch a stunt, it turns out- he was attempting to commit suicide after his girlfriend, an actress, left him for the star of the film he was working on. The twist is that he tells the story to Alexandria to trick her into getting him morphine to finish what he started.

Eventually the entire deception comes to a head, and the end of the story turns into a macabre descent into depression, that of course only the little girl can save him from. It sounds a bit trite, but damn it, I choke up every time, mostly thanks to Pace's fine work near the films conclusion.

Also, the more I watch it, the more I love the subtle motif of falling, and the meaning of the title- fortunately, none of the levels the title works on are biblical, however. It's more about personal falls and rises, the reality of the immigrant class (Alexandria fell helping her mother pick oranges), and a sort of ode to early cinema stunt people for risking their lives before trick photography and CGI.

Speaking of which, Tarsem has insisted that there is not a single CGI environment or landscape in The Fall, which makes the film all the more impressive. Filmed in over 26 locations in 18 countries, the film is a travelogue to the exotic and majestic, well more than most of us could visit ourselves in a lifetime.

The only special effects I can definitely point to are a few bravura transitions between the real world or between fantastic locations in the story: a butterly pinned in a case slowly because an island at sea, the stony glare of an evil priest abruptly becomes the harsh desert landscape, or spilled coffee in the real world become the blood-soaked shroud of the Masked Bandit's brother (The Masked Bandit is the story within the story's main protagonist, and he begins as Alexandria's father, but later becomes Roy himself).

It's these sort of shots that really make The Fall a wonder. I like to fancy myself something of a storyteller, and nothing makes me smile like the way that Roy's story begins:

ROY: Okay, close your eyes. What do you see?

ALEXANDRIA: (after a pause) Nothing.

ROY: Rub them. (she does) Can you see the stars?

And the film immediately cuts to a starry filled sky, over a white island on a calm sea.

Okay, do me a favor- watch the very beginning here:

Does that not look awesome? Need more? Okay, go here and watch the introduction of one of Roy's adventurers- a fictionalized version of English Naturalist Charles Darwin, but watch the whole thing because it has the awesome butterfly/island transition. If those two clips don't make you want to see The Fall, I can't do anything for you.

But trust me: rent it from Netflix. Buy it from Amazon.

Actually? F*ck it!- go to, download and install the Bittorrent program, then go here and click Download this Torrent! If you leave your computer online for a while, you'll have The Fall for free, in an .AVI file that will play in Windows Media Player or its equivalent.  (if your conscience is troubled, after it downloads you can easily got to Start> Programs> Bittorrent> Uninstall and no one will ever know).

That's right, I am literally advocating breaking the law so you can see this film (or if you know me personally, ask me to borrow the DVD)- chances are a high percentage of anyone who does that will want to buy it for real money eventually, or at least tell other people about it.

Because it's that awesome. Or at least, I love it that much. That is all.

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