Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.
Release Date: May 30th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tarsem Actors: Catinca Untaru, Lee Pace, Justine Waddell, Kim Uylenbroek, Aiden Lithgow, Sean Gilder, Ronald France
he Fall” blends several familiar plot designs with brilliantly surrealistic imagery to create a movie that appears visually astounding at times, yet oddly recycled at others. Following in the footsteps of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Tarsem’s second theatrical feature melds a somber reality with mesmerizing fantasy, but his vision isn’t nearly as focused – and the result is plagued by a steady rise and fall of direction and satisfaction. He proves, with great vigor, that stunning imagery can’t win over lulls in storytelling.
During her hospital recovery from a broken arm, young Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) encounters the bedridden Roy (Lee Pace), who quickly entices her with his wild yarns. While manipulating the young girl into carrying out simple tasks for him, Roy weaves together an epic tale of five diverse warriors all fixated on a common goal – to kill the tyrannical governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). Continually adapting and evolving his story to encompass characters based on real people around them – as well as to please Alexandria’s vivid imagination – Roy slowly deceives the girl into aiding in his own personal, tragic plan.
The gorgeous, dreamlike imagery of “The Fall” helps to mask the unsatisfying twists in character motives and themes, distracting with the significant implementation of makeup, costuming, and special effects. A story that has seen many reincarnations in movie form hides beneath singular set designs, lavish ornamentation, and inspired cinematography. Escher-esque buildings dot the striking landscapes of neon deserts, grassy knolls, and blue cities. And inhabiting these are all manner of natives and black-masked foot soldiers, highlighted by the five primary heroes, who sport an arresting style all their own. The fantastical kingdom that Tarsem has created both amazes and astonishes – but, as expected, all the grandiose visuals in the world can’t independently make a movie.
While Alexandria authentically imparts a bubbly demeanor, rife with curiosity appropriate to her age, it is this lack of maturity that diminishes the poignancy of Roy’s elaborate storytelling trickery. With her inability to understand the complications of Roy’s mental predicaments, the audience can’t sympathize fully with either character’s plight. Perhaps a slightly older girl, such as the severer Ofelia of “Pan’s Labyrinth” or the dour Jeliza-Rose of “Tideland,” would have garnered a more meaningful adventure and emotional reactions to the deaths and betrayals relevant to “The Fall’s” meld of reality and fiction.
A byzantine mix of “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” and many other dark fairy tales, Tarsem’s latest effort borrows more ideas than it composes. Visually, it’s masterfully crafted with effective slow-motion, eye-popping beguilements, and a sensational score – but the fact that so many comparisons can be drawn to other films is a detrimental mark against its originality. As the ever-changing story progresses, “The Fall” does just that – stumbling to focus on what truly matters to both storyteller and audience, resultantly lessening the impact a more anchored plot would have created. Here, truth isn’t stranger than fiction, but the gloomy reality too frequently shifts away from entertainment.
– The Massie Twins