Tarsem Singh’s The Fall is a gem of a movie that seems to have passed under many a moviegoer’s radar. Directed by Singh in 2006 and released to theaters in 2008, The Fall exhibits a stylistically stunning visual narrative that film enthusiasts with a taste for dramatic flair should not miss.
The Fall follows the psychological journey of Roy Walker (Lee Pace), an injured stuntman living in 1920s Los Angeles. Roy is recuperating in a hospital ward, depressed by the fact that his girlfriend left him. Roy meets Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a five-year-old immigrant girl with a broken arm. He converses with the girl and soon begins to spin elaborate tales of daring adventure for her in attempts to gain her trust. Roy, desperate and miserable, hopes to convince Alexandria to steal morphine tablets for him to overdose on. As Roy’s outlook on life grows increasingly grim, so does the world of fantasy he creates with words. In the end, it is up to Alexandria to take a part in Roy’s story and save him from himself.
The Fall is an unusual film in many ways. It is contemporary, surreal, and fantastical. While the film has a choice few moments of understated reflection, most of its charm comes from its over-the-top cinematic style. Since much of the film revolves around Alexandria’s imagining of Roy’s tale, the film takes on the shockingly vivid colorations and dramatic landscapes of a child’s mind. What’s remarkable about The Fall is that every example of astounding architecture and scenery used as backdrops exists in real life— no fake sets here.
I love the film for its ostentatious beauty: the dazzling costumes, the exotic settings, and the gorgeous musical score. The Fall uses Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major as the centerpiece for its soundtrack, and I would argue that this is the best use of this piece of music in any film to date (including The King’s Speech, which used the piece to stunning effect).
I write this review fully aware that this film is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people may loathe The Fall for the same reasons I love it: the film is unabashedly artsy, strange, and grandiose. And, admittedly, the characters can stray into melodrama at times, but that can be excused when one considers that much of the action takes place in the realm of a five-year-old’s imagination.
In the end, however, the most beautiful thing about this movie is not the costumes, scenery, or music, but what both Roy and Alexandria gain from having met one another. The Fall is dark, beautiful, and tragic– a tale of loss and growth. The Fall is unlike any other film I have ever seen, and firmly takes a place among my top favorite movies.