The Fall – Tarsem Singh

13Jul08

The Fall

Where do music video directors go when they die?  This isn’t an existential conundrum, or a lame joke; there is an actual answer.  

 

They go to India.

 

The only thing David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and Tarsem Singh had in common is that they all used to direct music videos (generally “best-of” for artists like George Michael, The Cars, and R.E.M.).  The only thing, that is, until The Fall.

 

The Fall is Tarsem’s second film, premiering six years after his cult classic The Cell (He’s not big on titles).  The Fall was released in 2006 in India and the UK, but was at first unable to solidify a US release.  Much like Quentin Tarantino saved Hero from international obscurity, Fincher and Jonze came to the rescue and “presented” The Fall for an early 2008 US release. Interestingly enough, this is actually an obscure remake of an even more obscure foreign film from eastern Europe called Yo Ho Ho from 1981.

 

The story is very simple for such a complex film.  A stuntman (Roy) in 1930’s Hollywood is paralyzed and laid up in a hospital.  While there, he meets a young girl in an arm cast, and proceeds to tell her an epic fantasy tale about heroes banding together to stop an evil Emperor.  As the story progresses it begins to blend into reality, or reality with it, and Roy’s emotional degradation begins to twist the fairy tale.  That’s the fun part.

 

The scenes in the hospital are extremely real, especially in regards to dialogue.  Alexandria, the young girl, isn’t set in perfect motion with her lines.  She behaves much like a 10 year old really would.  Her speech is uncertain and contradictory, she has trouble understanding simple English words in the stuntman’s story.  This is at first cumbersome, as sometimes several minutes are devoted to explanations of words or ideas.  

 

However, as the film continues, this serves to solidly separate real life from the fantasy. One thing I found interesting was that the story is told by Roy, but shown from the imagination of the Alexandria.  She had a close friend from India who gave her an elephant figurine.  So when Roy is talking about an “Indian” character with a “squaw” , and a “wigwam”, she is picturing the sweeping landscape of India, and the character wears a turban and a scimitar.  She pictures Roy as the main hero, and people around the hospital in various roles, ultimately ending up a character herself.

 

In 2000, The Cell was stunning.  A visually impressive, surreal work of CGI in the days of the art’s adolescence.  What is amazing about The Fall is that is features virtually no digital effects.  The landscapes where it was filmed (around 26 locations in 18 different countries) are unaltered and still extremely beautiful in a fantasy setting.  The film is very colorful and alive, great cinematography, and excellent scene transitions that are themselves surreal at times, challenging perception.

 

I sincerely hope this is the start of the amazing, prolific film career I know Tarsem could have.  However, if its US reaction is any indication, I fear it will not know popularity until it’s second year on DVD.

 

Final Grade: A-



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