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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed/Floored, 10 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Falls - Peter Greenaway [DVD] (DVD)
For some inexplicable reason, or for many inexplicable reasons, this is one of my favourite films of all time. It is long, loopy, devoid of plot, the product of a man who must be a good few strides along the Asperger's spectrum; but from that moment, when my teenage brain heard Nyman's chunking chords for the very first time, with the camera skitting through bracken and some other inconsequential landscape, I knew this was it, love at first sight. Well, no it wasn't because we walked out of the cinema. Mike and I agreed we were bored and thought we would leave before the end and get to the pub. Try as we might we could not talk about anything else except the film. The next evening, we went back and saw it again. I've seen it three or four times since. It's ridiculous.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Labrynthine games, 6 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Falls - Peter Greenaway [DVD] (DVD)
The Falls (1980) is arguably Peter Greenaway's most demanding film: an epic three-hour journey through the labyrinth of his game-playing imagination. The central premise on which the narrative is based is that approximately 19 million individuals have become victims of an apocalyptic catastrophe, the Violent Unknown Event (VUE), which has left them with various debilitating medical conditions (the early physiological signs of mutating into birds), speaking in bizarre, private languages, and interested in ornithology and/or human flight. All are now immortal. The viewer is presented with a selection of 92 brief case histories of victims registered in the "Directory" published by the committee investigating the VUE: the surnames of these selected individuals begin with the letters FALL. Fans of the Quay Brothers will doubtless notice their cameo appearance among the victims of the VUE, and the catchy minimalist soundtrack is an early one by Michael Nyman.

Peter Greenaway's 11 years as a film editor at the Central Office Of Information, an arm of the British Home Office, laid the foundations for his enduring fascination with bureaucracy and bureaucratic methods of collecting and collating statistical information. Add a generous pinch of parody, a Borgesian (read the classic Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius) attention to detail, documentary voice-overs and interviewers, and you have something of the tone of The Falls (which took five years to assemble). Its preoccupation with strange characters, absurd statistical data, birds, English landscape and water photography feature in earlier (and later) Peter Greenaway films such as Dear Phone (1976) Water Wrackets (1978) and A Walk Through H (1978) but in The Falls receive a more thorough-going treatment. The staggering complexity of the information crammed into these case histories makes the DVD format particularly appropriate; repeat viewing offers a relaxed way of absorbing the literary intricacies. The director has suggested that the viewer take the work a little at a time, or fast-forward if and when desired - there is no compulsion to view its three hours in one sitting or in any particular sequence. It's to be dipped into, much as one dips into an encyclopaedia.

While The Falls offers no clear allegorical reading, the title may suggest the biblical fall of Man. Birds, who are possibly responsible for the VUE, are perhaps presented as idealised, liberated creatures whose enhanced powers of vision and flight are desired by mankind, hence the preoccupation with human attempts to simulate bird flight and references to the fall of Icarus. The transmigration of souls (dealt with in the bird imagery of A Walk Through H) is again suggested by the victims' development of bird physiology, perhaps in preparation for this spiritual journey.

Allegory or not, Greenaway's principal achievement in The Falls is to have created a compelling and consistent world sustained by the conventions of the documentary form; however absurd or hilarious the revelations appear, the mode of representation (the sober voice-overs, the restrained camera movements, the use of found footage, the teeming cross-references inside the film and to other Greenaway films) rings true. When a narrator questions the veracity of the VUE itself, it serves to reinforce the foundations on which the whole enterprise is based. If there's a darker side to the film, it's that it reminds us of the sinister way governments control and fabricate the nature of the information they disseminate to their populations through the seemingly reliable structures of bureaucracy. The Falls is Peter Greenaway at his most engagingly bizarre and challenging, and further proof that he is arguably Britain's greatest living film writer and director.
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The Falls - Peter Greenaway [DVD]
The Falls - Peter Greenaway [DVD] by Peter Greenaway (DVD)
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