Tarsem Singh's The Fall
The Fall (2006)
If there's anything that director Tarsem Singh has been able to prove with his two films, it's that the scope of storytelling is limited only by the power of the imagination. His previous film, the underrated "The Cell," took us on a journey through a warped human mind, leading us to the darkest corners of a serial killer's nightmares. So it's understandable why Singh would choose to make something a little lighter this time around, though we quickly discover that this story isn't your typical "once upon a time..." tale.
The external story is set at a hospital in 1920s Los Angeles. Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) has recently had an accident while picking oranges in an orchard and is recovering in the hospital from a broken arm. While exploring the hospital, she meets Roy (Lee Pace), a stuntman who has injured himself while attempting a stunt for a film. The two quickly become friends and he even tells her an epic story, but what Alexandria doesn't realize is that Roy has an ulterior motive for telling her this story.
The story that Roy tells Alexandria involves five men who have all sworn to kill the same man, Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone), because he has wronged all of them. As the story advances, we learn about each man and their past as well as what Odious has done to them. But what starts out as a revenge story quickly shows itself to have double meaning as the line between fantasy and reality begins to fade, causing the two worlds to collide.
Like "The Cell," Singh's latest film is a visual feast for the eyes. It is certainly one of the most beautiful films I've seen in a long time, filled with bright, vibrant colors that immediately attract the eyes. In a way, this is a great companion piece to his previous film in terms of those colors. To set the right mood for "The Cell," Singh used very dark colors, symbolizing the darkness in the killer's mind, whereas in "The Fall," the colors are much more vivid as the storyteller attempts to keep his story in an upbeat atmosphere.
The turning point of the story is when we overhear that Roy attempted this stunt to impress a girl; a girl that eventually shunned him. After this news, Roy could not take the pain of rejection from the girl he loved, so we find out that he is attempting to commit suicide. To do so, he tells Alexandria the epic tale of revenge so that she will help him get some pills.
When this point in the story arrives, we begin to notice the wall between fantasy and reality breaking down as we see similar things happening in both worlds. Roy also plays one of the five men bent on revenge in the story within the story; a masked bandit who has been betrayed by a woman. The bandit considers suicide by pills and attempts it, but neither story is meant to end here.
Suddenly, reality forces its way in as Alexandria has another accident when trying to procure more pills for Roy. Roy is even more distraught now then he was before. Not only has his girlfriend rejected him, but now he is responsible for a little girl's injuries. This is where the story takes a darker turn, in both worlds. The interesting thing that Singh has done here is to not change the light of the story world when the darker themes arrive. Perhaps he is telling us that, despite the dark themes that arise in the last part of the story, there is always a chance that good will come of it.
Alexandria wants to hear the rest of the story, but she finds it to be very disturbing. Singh is showing us just how much power the storyteller has, and, depending on that storyteller's mood, the story can change very rapidly. We watch as the story proceeds to its ending, with Alexandria trying to bring Roy through his troubled time. She too has become a character in the revenge story, making her able to give motivation in both worlds, but we are unsure whether or not Roy's will to live is strong enough. Friends and doctors have been trying to talk him out of his suicidal wishes every since his arrival, yet his last chance for redemption lies in the pleas of a little girl.
The last minute or two of Singh's film is footage of old silent films featuring some of the old-time greats like Buster Keaton. This is a startling juxtaposition when compared to what we have been experiencing throughout the whole film. It shows us just how far we have come through over a century of filmmaking, and that when it comes to imagination, there is no limit. 3.5/4 stars.