‘The Fall’ by Tarsem Revisited

         
 

16 November 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Tarsem’s The Fall (2008) is an adult fairy tale, and also a homage to the Hollywood stuntmen of the 1920’s. It is visually extravagant, but you have to excuse the thin story. The reason to see it is because it precedes the director’s current box office hit “Immortals.” I figured I would like “The Fall” better the second time, with perhaps some grown appreciation, but I liked it just the same.

The paralyzed stunt man is the amiable Roy (Lee Pace), immobile in a hospital bed. He befriends a little girl with a lot of gumption named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru). You don’t know what a lot of gumption is until you meet this little girl. She is sweet, loyal, and committed to friendship. She is a hospital patient, too, as her one arm is in a cast. She comes to Roy’s bedside to hear a fantastic fairy tale, a lá “The Princess Bride” (1987), that involves an Indian warrior, an Italian dynamite expert, an escaped African slave, Charles Darwin and a Zorro-like Bandit molded after Roy. If you’re going to have adventures – I’m convinced – why not set it in India?

Tarsem is fanatical about green silks, red dyes, frocks, and deserts with two color tones. He tirelessly shot in such richly diverse locations as the Chandra Mahal in Jaipur; the Lake Palace of Udaipur; the Jaisalmer Fort in Rajasthan, India; the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; the Chand Baori in Abhaneri, Rajasthan India; Tivoli, Italy; the Teatro Opera house in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Butterfly Reef in Fiji; the Tegallalang Rice Terrace in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; the Necropolis in Cairo, Egypt; the Li River in China; the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia; and Tarsem’s truest disciples only know where else. This was a long four year production that was self-funded by its own artiste Tarsem.

Yet the second time I was more engrossed by the little girl than by the fairy tale. The fairy tale, that Roy narrates, is a rambling one. I found that it is better to look at it than to listen to it. But the little girl is a fresh and innocent presence, and she hangs on every word. Roy is spinning a needlessly long yarn because he wants extortion from her. He spells out M-O-R-P-H-I-N-E. Alexandria is told to go steal a bottle of this from the doctor dispensary, otherwise, Roy won’t tell her the end of the story. Then there is The Fall, i.e., the descent. Roy has an uncompromising grown-up finish to the fairy tale, sans fairies.

“The Fall” is a cascading beauty of sublime imagery, but I’m still kept at arm’s length from loving it, even though I was besides the little girl more during this second viewing. I think that it should have been cut by twenty minutes. It runs at 117 minutes. The fairy tale heroes are mostly archetypes and they lack a mother, a girlfriend, or a princess to rescue. The thin soup needed to be thicker. Still, much appreciation for Tarsem’s efforts.

Tarsem is the director of the R.E.M. music video “Losing My Religion.” His film debut was the terrifying psychological thriller “The Cell” (2000) with Jennifer Lopez. Years passed without another film in the can, so he spent his resources to make “The Fall,” and while not a traditional box office success, it has gained fan recognition worldwide. “Immortals” is his current box office success, and already has another grown-up fairy tale “Mirror, Mirror” with Julia Roberts as the evil queen, in post-production.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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