Top positive review
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Visually stunning, and a storyline more substantial than it's given credit for
on 5 April 2012
I bought the DVD recently after becoming intrigued by comments (good and bad) about the film on some film review sites. I'm not sure how I stumbled upon the reviews, as the film was released in 2006, but I think it must have been because Tarsem Singh also directed the just-released Mirror, Mirror.
It seems some reviewers regarded The Fall as visually stunning but lacking in substance, too contrived, and so on. Some reviewers complained that the film is too stylish, too beautiful, almost like overindulging in sugar-coated sweets. Having now watched it, I can say that it is indeed visually stunning (I think I would have been gobsmacked had I seen this on the Big Screen) and that many reviewers have, in my opinion, been too harsh in stating that the story lacks depth or is too contrived. Perhaps that has a little to do with my own experience as a hospitalised little boy, sitting on the bed of a mountain climber covered in plaster, his arms and legs hanging from wires and weights, listening in awe to his stories of the Yeti. In fact, after seeing The Fall, the film has left me thinking about its twists and wanting to watch it again.
The story is about a silent movie stuntman (Lee Pace) hospitalised following a very serious fall during filming, visited by a little immigrant girl (Catinca Untaru) who has also been hospitalised with a broken arm following a fall from a tree while working in the orange groves. The title of course alludes to both those falls, but it also alludes to other falls in the film, both literal and metaphorical, as you'll find out.
The stuntman has lost the use of his legs and... well, you'll have to watch the film yourself, but a significant part of the film involves him spinning a fantastical yarn to the little girl, and her visualising it. The same actors who play hospital staff, patients and visitors also play the parts of the protagonists in the yarn. In today's CGI world, it's refreshing to see a film made predominantly using real people, animals and objects in real settings (and what glorious settings they are). Sometimes the scenery is breathtaking; sometimes the cinematography is lovely.
The storyline does seem somewhat superficial, but, if you think about it more, you do discover more depth.
As to the acting, well, Catinca Untaru is wonderful. It looks to me like some of the dialogue was unscripted, as there seem to be a few unintentional overlaps in speech, which adds to the authenticity. Basically, she pulls it off brilliantly. One of the accompanying 'Making Of' videos on the DVD shows that, for the seven weeks of filming the hospital scenes, Lee Pace continued in character and she was led to believe he was a paraplegic. I suppose that was Tarsem Singh's idea to make her act more realistically. Well, it looks like it might have helped.
The soundtrack is rather a treat, too. The film starts in black and white showing the immediate aftermath of the stunt accident accompanied by Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, II. Allegretto. What a glorious piece of music.
You'll have to make up your own mind. I don't think it's quite a masterpiece -- at least not from the storyline point of view -- but I think it is well worth seeing. If my wife nods off during a film I know it must be a dud. Not only did she stay wide awake during The Fall, at the end she said she liked it. From such a harsh film critic that is praise indeed. The visual artistry in this film is five-star; the storyline four-star. I'll settle for four stars overall. Recommended.